The fight for equal rights has been one of the great fights of my life.
As mayor of New York City, I came out in favor of marriage equality in 2005 — long before it was considered politically safe to do so, and years before many of the other candidates for president stated their support publicly.
The reason I spoke out back then was simple: I saw the pain that the status quo was causing, and I could not defend it. I could not look people in the eye and tell them that their government was correct in denying them the right to get married.
But I didn’t just speak up for marriage equality — I worked to make it a reality.
I went up to the state capitol in Albany, where Republicans controlled the state Senate, and met with senators who were against it. I asked them to listen to their families, and especially their children. I asked them to put party politics aside and vote their conscience.
That’s what they did — and marriage equality passed in New York State.
After it passed, I sat down with one of my advisers in City Hall, John Feinblatt, whose partner was one of my commissioners — Jonathan Mintz.
I told him that if he and Jonathan wanted to get married, that I’d be honored to officiate. And as the kicker, I said that we could do it on the very first day that marriage equality was legal, on the steps of Gracie Mansion.
John thought it was a good idea. But we both agreed that before we started planning and sending invitations, we should probably check with Jonathan.
Thankfully, he said yes. And it was an honor to marry them. In the years after, I worked to spread marriage equality around the country.
Now, we’ve come a long way since 1969, when police stormed the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Back then, New York and virtually every other state had laws on the books that made same-sex relationships a crime. It’s hard to imagine now that you could go to prison for years, just for being intimate with someone you loved in the privacy of your own home.
But for all the progress we have made on equality since then, we’re faced with new reminders of how much farther we still have to go very single day.
The fact is, as John said to me recently: You can be married on Sunday and fired on Monday.
In most states, there is no law that stops companies from firing people for their sexual orientation — or renting a home to them.
Many veterans are still not receiving their full military benefits because they were discharged before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
And tragically, transgender young people are being denied access to medical treatment, harassed, beaten, and even killed — for doing nothing more than living their full truth.
Each of these realities are proof that just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not eliminate racism, the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality did not eliminate bias and hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community.
The march for equality and justice in this country has always been too slow — but it has also never stopped. And it falls to the president to help pick up the pace. The great ones always roll the ball of progress a little farther and a little faster.
But this president keeps trying to kick it backwards. He’s done that by appointing judges with anti-LGTBQ+ views and by not advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world.
In America, we need the opposite from our president. We need someone who will protect all people from hatred and discrimination.
We need a president who will use the power of the Oval Office to pass the Equality Act, and ensure that civil rights laws apply to sexual orientation and identity.
We need a president who will not permit religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate against people — and who will make schools and communities more inclusive and safer for LGBTQ+ students.
We need a president who will reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act immediately — and strengthen it to include more comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.
We need a president who will close disparities in health care access and work to end HIV/AIDS.
We need a president who will restore the United States’ standing as a moral leader in the global fight for equal rights.
There is a rising tide of hatred in this country — and it has led to violent attacks on all marginalized groups. If we don’t confront this reality head-on, we risk allowing it to overwhelm us.
That means we also need a president who will no longer turn a blind eye to the horrifying number of transgender people who have been attacked or killed in this country — especially young transgender women of color.
It’s time for the federal government to make hate crimes like these a top priority — and to close the LGBTQ+ panic loophole that has let far too many off these bigoted attackers walk free.
Finally, we need a president who will be work for all Americans — all orientations and identities, all colors and creeds. It’s the only way for us to bring this country back together and start putting the United back in the United States of America.
I know we can do it — and that’s why I’m running.
Michael Bloomberg is a philanthropist, the former mayor of New York City, and a Democratic presidential candidate.