Breaking: Kirsten Gillibrand Releases LGBTQ Rights Agenda for 2020

The presidential candidate details her comprehensive plan in honor of Pride Month.

Kirsten Gillibrand is celebrating Pride Month by outlining a comprehensive plan to fight for LGBTQ rights if elected president in 2020.

Today the New York Senator shared with NewNowNext an ambitious and far-ranging slate of proposals to restore LGBTQ equality after significant rollbacks under the current administration. These include passage of the Equality Act, a nationwide ban of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth and adults, expanding access to HIV-prevention medications like PrEP, and reissuing guidance to public schools allowing transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity.

“LGBTQ Americans deserve a president who will always stand with them and protect their civil rights—without hesitation,” Gillibrand says in a statement. “Unfortunately, what they have right now is a bigoted, cowardly bully who makes the LGBTQ community more vulnerable.”

Her proposals are broken down into four sections: “equal rights,” “families and kids,” “health care,” and “safety.”  

Equal Rights

Calling the movement for LGBTQ equality “one of the most pivotal civil rights struggles of this generation,” Gillibrand claims she would “would use the full power of the presidency to enshrine those rights into law at every level of society.

According to the Senator, this includes ratifying the Equality Act, a historic bill extending protections on the basis of LGBTQ identity in all walks of life, including but not limited to housing, employment, health care, education, and public accommodations. The legislation, reintroduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) earlier this year, passed the U.S. House last month in a historic vote. It’s unlikely, however, to pass the Republican-controlled Senate or be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

If elected president, Gillibrand pledges to “sign the Equality Act immediately,” calling herself a “proud original cosponsor” of the legislation.

“Regardless of Congress’ actions, as president I would direct my Department of Justice to consider gender identity and sexual orientation a protected class to prevent discrimination in any area of public life,” she says. “I would prioritize the enforcement of that policy by hiring Department of Justice attorneys to focus specifically and exclusively on eradicating anti-LGBTQ discrimination.”

Gillibrand also vows to push the Department of Defense to ban discrimination against people with HIV and transgender troops in the U.S. armed forces. If elected in 2020, she would “immediately rescind Trump’s hateful and harmful ban on transgender people serving openly in our military.”

“Equal rights mean the right of all Americans who are brave enough to choose to serve in our military to do so, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Gillibrand says. She adds that the president’s partial ban on transgender service members, first unveiled in a July 2017 tweetstorm, both harms America’s “military readiness” and “undermines our values.”

Lastly, Gillibrand would also fight for the introduction of a third-gender option on all federal identity documents, including U.S. passports. Currently, at least 10 states allow trans and non-binary people to list a gender-neutral “X” on their driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards.

Families and Kids

Gillibrand’s plan to secure equal rights for same-sex families and LGBTQ youth is among the more extensive plans outlined today, which is perhaps saying something.

First, the Senator pledges to “permanently codify marriage equality as the law of the land” following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, in order to ensure the ruling “can never be overturned” either by SCOTUS or federal lawmakers. While it isn’t totally clear what Gillibrand would do to ensure that same-sex marriages cannot be rolled back—such as an executive order or pressuring Congress to act—she points to a similar plan for protecting abortion rights under Roe v. Wade. That proposal is also somewhat light on details, however.

In the Oval Office, Gillibrand would also push for a ban on any attempt to treat sexual orientation or gender identity as a curable condition, noting that the “despicable, torturous practice” of conversion therapy remains legal in 32 states. Maine and Colorado have become the most recent states to outlaw the discredited treatment, signing their legislation in the past week.

“I’m running for president to fight for every family as hard as I would fight for my own,” the candidate says. “That includes LGBTQ families and kids, who—despite victory on marriage equality—still face myriad obstacles and disparities that hold them back.”

Her other proposals include issuing comprehensive guidance in K-12 schools to combat anti-LGBTQ bullying. She would also increase mental health funding to address the disproportionate rate of suicide among queer and transgender youth; as many as half of trans men attempt to take their own lives during their teenage years, according to a 2018 study published in the Pediatrics journal.

In addition to nominating a pro-LGBTQ Secretary of Education, Gillibrand would direct the office to reissue the 2016 “Dear Colleague” letter “recommending that public schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.” That guidance was rescinded by Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, in the early weeks of Trump’s presidency. The candidate also plans to “ensure that LGBTQ students are protected” under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a comprehensive law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs.

Among policies specific to LGBTQ parents, Gillibrand pledges to “combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption, child welfare agencies, and foster care,” as well as requiring “insurance companies to cover fertility treatments like IVF.” She is currently a co-sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which seeks to ensure that religiously based adoption and foster care agencies aren’t able to turn away same-sex couples in the name of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

According to Gillbrand, she also would require hospitals and emergency rooms to offer a gender-neutral form to new same-sex parents to secure their parental rights at the moment their child is born.

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Health Care

Gillibrand’s health care platform—first and perhaps foremost—seeks to safeguard protections in trans access to health care that the Trump administration has recently proposed disbanding. Just weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claimed it is considering rescinding Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prevents health centers which receive funding from the federal government from discriminating against patients on the basis of their gender identity.

The Democrat would combat these rollbacks, she claims, by requiring health insurance plans to cover gender-affirming care for trans individuals, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If elected, she pledges to ensure those options are 
“available to all Americans, including veterans, members of the military, and those in correctional facilities.”

Additionally, Gillibrand would work with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to lift its one-year deferral period for gay and bisexual blood donors, which amounts to a de-facto ban on donations for many patients. She notes that the FDA’s current policy is an “antiquated, bigoted policy without scientific basis,” as the presence of HIV/AIDS can be detected in the bloodstream within a week of transmission. Those guidelines also lag behind countries like Argentina, Chile, Italy, Russia, South Africa, and Spain, which do not force men who have sex with men (MSMs) to abstain from intercourse if they wish to donate blood.

“If someone is generous enough to donate blood, they shouldn’t be discriminated against,” Gillibrand says, noting that she has been fighting to lift the deferral period for MSMs since 2010.

As president, Gillibrand would endeavor to protect access to reproductive health options and abortion care for all Americans, including LGBTQ people. She notes that the nationwide erosion of funding to Planned Parenthood also “hurts transgender and nonbinary Americans,” many of whom rely on these centers for gender-affirming care. She also plans to restore funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and research funded by President Trump, who earlier this year announced cuts of $1.35 billion to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program was established by President George W. Bush to fight the virus’ spread around the globe.

Finally, the 2020 hopeful also vows to work with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to “make generic PrEP drugs more widely available and affordable.” Pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs like Truvada reduce the risk of HIV transmission by as much as 90%, according to the CDC.

Safety

As Gillibrand notes in her LGBTQ rights platform, at least five black transgender women have already been killed in 2019: Muhlaysia Booker, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato, Dana Martin, and Michelle Washington. In addition, data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) shows that hate crimes against all members of the LGBTQ community have increased since Trump declared his intention to run for president in June 2015. She would combat these realities by directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) both track and prosecute hate crimes against these vulnerable groups.

This plan includes fully funding the “critical programs” established by the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law signed by President Obama in 2009. According to the candidate, these programs “provide training and assistance to state and local authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes when they occur.”

“No one in America should ever live in fear of violence because of who they are—and we have to work much harder to guarantee the safety of LGBTQ individuals,” she claims.

As Commander-in-Chief, Gillibrand says she would also expand resources to combat widespread homelessness among LGBTQ youth, who are disproportionately likely to be forced out of their homes or live on the street. Although 2017 statistics from Gallup found that around 8.2% of millennials identify as queer and transgender, an estimated 40% of homeless young people are LGBTQ. She pledged to “direct [her] Department of Housing and Urban Development to properly measure homelessness in order to secure appropriate funding that serves all homeless people.”

Earlier this month, the Trump administration proposed a new rule allowing homeless shelters to deny access to individuals based on their gender identity. The HHS proposal allows these centers to discriminate based on their own views about  “privacy, safety, [and] practical concerns,” as well as their “religious beliefs.”

And while Trump has yet to condemn human rights abuses against LGBTQ people in Azerbajian, Chechnya, Egypt, and Tanzania, Gillibrand promises to take a strong stand against “any country or leader who allows the persecution of LGBTQ people.” More than 100 Chechens, for instance, have been rounded up, imprisoned, forced to do hard labor, beaten, and even killed in a campaign targeting anyone suspected to be queer and transgender. Its provincial leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied claims of an anti-LGBTQ crackdown, which reportedly continues.

Gillibrand would also work in the Oval Office to “ensure that asylum claims of LGBTQ people fleeing persecution are recognized so that they may reach safety.”

While the senator’s agenda is easily the most detailed plan for LGBTQ equality among the 2020 candidates, there are a number of gaps in her proposal. It does not mention the LGBTQ families whose children have been denied citizenship by the current administration or the denial of visas to the unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats, the latter of which was mentioned in an LGBTQ rights plan that Elizabeth Warren shared with NewNowNext last month. It also neglects to discuss the inclusion of LGBTQ people on federal websites, although Gillibrand is highly likely to restore digital resources erased by the Trump administration.

Additionally, her plan does not mention the decriminalization of sex work, which is already becoming an extremely contentious issue in the 2020 campaign cycle. Her campaign reportedly did not respond to a BuzzFeed News inquiry as to Gillibrand’s views on whether people should continue being arrested for prostitution. Last year, she voted in favor of FOSTA/SESTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill which shut down website Backpage.com. Many claimed the loss of those resources would put sex workers—particularly LGBTQ people—at greater risk for harm.

However, Gillibrand claims she will continue to expand her platform in the days and weeks to come, including from the White House should she be elected next year.

“Here’s my biggest commitment of all: I won’t stop at the policies I’ve outlined today when it comes to fighting for LGBTQ families and individuals,” she claims. “The LGBTQ community is not a monolith with a finite set of needs, and equal rights and freedom from discrimination should be the bare minimum we accept.”

Nico Lang is an award-winning journalist and editor. His work has been featured in INTO, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Esquire, and the L.A. Times.
@Nico_Lang