Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, today unveiled his plan for advancing LGBTQ rights if he is elected.
It includes both executive and legislative actions, such as lifting the transgender military ban, passing the Equality Act, and investigating violence against trans people, and international as well as domestic issues. O’Rourke’s campaign released it as the candidate was participating in the Pride Run with members of the LGBTQ community and allies in New York City.
“LGBTQ+ Americans have made incredible progress over the past decade, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of activists and advocates — but too many LGBTQ+ people still lack protection under many states’ laws, and the current administration is encouraging rather than stamping out discrimination,” O’Rourke, who challenged one of the nation’s leading homophobes, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in last year’s election and nearly beat him, said in a press release. “We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love.”
Under the plan, detailed on O’Rourke’s campaign website, he promises to “use executive authority to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community is protected and treated equally under the law,” “work with Congress to enact legislation to ensure LGBTQ+ Americans have full equality and opportunity regardless of where they live,” and “work with allies to strengthen protections for the LGBTQ+ community globally.”
In the realm of executive action, he pledges to reverse the many anti-LGBTQ policies enacted by Donald Trump’s administration, such as the ban on military service by transgender people, including any discharges resulting from it; the practice of discharging HIV-positive service members; efforts to allow discrimination in health care and in adoption and foster care; and expansion of religious exemptions to enable discrimination. He says he would reinstate Department of Education guidance aimed at protecting LGBTQ students and would consider federal civil rights law banning sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, contrary to the Trump administration’s reading of the law.
He also says he would direct the Department of Justice to investigate crimes against transgender people, especially trans women of color; task the Federal Trade Commission with tackling false advertising or other unfair business practices that promote conversion therapy; classify LGBTQ immigrants fleeing persecution as a “vulnerable population,” assuring that they have access to the asylum process; prioritize the research necessary to modernize blood donation requirements; and appoint judges and executive branch officials who support the civil rights of all.
Under legislative action, he says he would work with Congress to pass the Equality Act; to enact universal health insurance, with inclusion of transition-related care and explicit bans on discrimination; to address the high cost of prescription drugs, including those used for HIV prevention; to reform the criminal justice system to end anti-LGBTQ practices; and to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, banning discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care programs.
On international matters, he pledges again to improve the access to asylum for LGBTQ people fleeing persecution; work with allies to secure a global treaty aimed at preventing such persecution; invest in the Global Equality Fund, which provides assistance to LGBTQ rights groups; and establish a special envoy for LGBTQ rights within the State Department. President Barack Obama created such a position, and Randy Berry was the first person to fill it, but since he left it in the first year of the Trump administration, the post has remained empty, leading The New York Times to report it has been “quietly eliminated … as a high-profile, stand-alone job.” Berry is now ambassador to Nepal.
O’Rourke has a largely LGBTQ-supportive record, both in his three terms representing an El Paso district in the U.S. House and, before that, as a member of the El Paso City Council. His challenge to Cruz generated interest far beyond Texas. His presidential campaign has not caught fire — he’s been polling in single digits, and he ranked sixth in the most recent Real Clear Politics average of polls. But the first contests in the nominating process, the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, are still eight months away.