With former Vice President Joe Biden surging toward the Democratic presidential nomination after three more primary victories Tuesday, and with his promise in Sunday’s debate to name a woman as his running mate, there’s ample speculation as to who that woman might be.
Various media outlets have named some potential front-runners, including three women who sought to be at the top of the 2020 ticket: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar. Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia in 2018, is mentioned frequently as well. But it’s not often acknowledged that there are numerous highly qualified lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women who could fill the vice-presidential slot.
The Advocate now seeks to make up for that oversight with some suggestions for women from our community Biden should consider, along with a look at the higher-profile straight possibilities. Overall, it’s a group that’s diverse in ideology, race, orientation, and other factors. Do our readers have further ideas? Let us know in the comments.
Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, broke the hearts of many women and LGBTQ folks when she became the last viable female candidate to drop out of the presidential race in early March. (U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is still in the race, but she has garnered little support.) Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Sanders. When Sanders equivocated about whether he’d name a woman as his running mate, his comment that it would have to be the right progressive woman may have been a signal to Warren. But many Biden supporters would like to see her on the ticket too. The question is if she would accept the number 2 slot and if her progressive politics would mesh with Biden’s more moderate stances — Medicare for all versus expansion of the Affordable Care Act, for instance. There’s no question, though, that Warren is a supporter of the LGBTQ community, having used debates to raise the issue of violence against transgender women of color and taken a variety of pro-equality stances throughout her career.
Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator from California and former attorney general for the state and district attorney for San Francisco, endorsed Biden in March, shortly after his Super Tuesday surge, even though she had occasionally clashed with him in debates. She had dropped out of the presidential race in December. Harris is a longtime LGBTQ rights champion — among other things, she was officiating marriages for same-sex couples in San Francisco way back in 2004, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom declared marriage equality in the city. An Emerson College poll in March found that 20 percent of respondents thought she’d make the best Biden running mate, placing her first in the poll.
U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota endorsed Biden immediately upon dropping out of the presidential race early in March. Some pundits are saying she has the inside track for the VP nomination. She and Biden have similarly moderate ideology (although they’re far left compared to the current administration). Klobuchar has a reliably LGBTQ-friendly voting record and has touted her ability to get things done in Washington by working across party lines. Like her Senate colleagues Warren and Harris, she’s for the Equality Act and a variety of other pro-LGBTQ measures, and against the transgender military ban.
Stacey Abrams, a veteran Georgia state legislator, was the state’s Democratic nominee for governor in 2018 — the first Black woman to be nominated for the post in any state in the U.S. She lost to Republican Brian Kemp in an election marred by accusations of voter suppression, especially affecting African-Americans. After the election, Abrams founded an organization to advocate for voting rights. She has continued to have a high profile; she was chosen to deliver the Democrats’ response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2019, and it was a ripping one in which she noted among other things that “the LGBTQ community remains under attack.” In addition to supporting pro-equality legislation, Abrams made a mark with our community by becoming the first Georgia gubernatorial nominee to march in the Atlanta Pride parade.
If Biden were to pick a member of the LGBTQ community for his VP, a likely top contender would be lesbian Tammy Baldwin, the first out U.S. senator. The Wisconsinite was also the first U.S. House member to be out when first elected; predecessors like Barney Frank and Steve Gunderson had come out while already in office. A senator since 2013, she’s been a longtime advocate for expansion of health care and other measures to assist low- and middle-income Americans. She has definitely used her position to speak out on LGBTQ issues as well, including nondiscrimination legislation and more. Last summer she commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion in a speech on the Senate floor. “The Stonewall uprising inspired thousands of LGBTQ individuals to emerge from shadow, to come out publicly, as they stood up for their community the night of June 28, 1969, and beyond, putting their lives and safety at risk,” Baldwin said.
Oregon’s Kate Brown, who is bisexual, became the nation’s first out LGBTQ governor in 2015 (if you don’t count New Jersey’s Jim McGreevey, who resigned immediately after coming out). Brown, who had been Oregon’s secretary of state, replaced Gov. John Kitzhaber when he resigned due to a scandal (Oregon has no lieutenant governor), and she was elected in her own right in 2016 and reelected in 2018. As governor, she has backed much progressive legislation; for the LGBTQ community, she’s signed bills banning the use of conversion therapy on minors and making it easier to change the gender marker on birth certificates. On other issues, she’s stood up for gun regulations and against Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant ideology.
Annise Parker served three terms as mayor of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, and the largest up to that time to have an out LGBTQ mayor (Parker is lesbian). She fought for the inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which was unfortunately repealed by voters in 2015 after a campaign by right-wingers asserting that trans people would pose a threat in public restrooms. She left office at the end of that year and in 2017 became president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect out candidates to office. Victory Fund helped assure that the blue wave of 2018 was also a rainbow wave, and it backed Pete Buttigieg’s history-making run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Last year Chicago superseded Houston as the biggest city to elect an out mayor when Lori Lightfoot, who is lesbian, won the top post in a landslide. She is also the first African-American woman to be mayor of Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city. This was her first run for office; before becoming a candidate, she was a lawyer and a longtime community activist, among other things serving on important police reform bodies. As mayor, she has promised to work for further law enforcement reform, spread prosperity to all neighborhoods, and ensure the equality of all Chicagoans, including the most marginalized populations. Even though she’s been mayor a short time, her experience and qualifications far outstrip those of some other people who’ve been VP nominees — such as a former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.
Sharice Davids made history in 2018 when she became the one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, and the first one who is gay. She defeated a pro-Trump incumbent to win a U.S. House seat representing Kansas’s Third Congressional District, making her the first out LGBTQ member of the state’s congressional delegation. She ran on a platform that included support for public education, affordable health care, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and of course LGBTQ rights.
Danica Roem is another history-maker. In 2017 the former journalist was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, making her the first out transgender person to be elected to a state legislature and go on to serve (a trans woman had been elected to New Hampshire’s legislature in 2012 but withdrew before being sworn in). An advocate for economic development and improving the state’s infrastructure, she beat the man who was almost certainly the most anti-LGBTQ Virginia legislator, Del. Bob Marshall. In 2019 she made history again by being reelected, besting another homophobic and transphobic rival. She’s helped advance pro-LGBTQ legislation in Virginia, which recently became the first Southern state to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors and will soon be the region’s first with an LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights law.
Lupe Valdez became one of the nation’s first out lesbian sheriffs when she was elected to that post in Dallas County in 2004, and the first Latina to be elected a sheriff in Texas. Then in 2018, she was the Democratic nominee for governor. It was an uphill battle in the conservative state, but she told The Advocate, “When has it not been an uphill battle for me? … I’m getting darn good at uphill battles.” She lost to anti-LGBTQ incumbent Greg Abbott, but she definitely made her mark. Could she help Biden turn Texas blue?
Those who say they don’t want politics as usual might welcome a VP who hasn’t been a politician. How about a lawyer, and in particular, the lawyer who brought down the main section of the Defense of Marriage Act? Roberta Kaplan famously represented lesbian widow Edie Windsor in the case against DOMA; Windsor owed estate taxes that an opposite-sex spouse wouldn’t owe, all because the law kept the federal government from recognizing her marriage. The Supreme Court struck down that section of DOMA in 2013. Kaplan, a New Yorker, has gone on to fight for other LGBTQ causes; for instance, she has sought to block a Mississippi law allowing for discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.
A VP from the world of activism and media could be another alternative to a professional politician. Sarah Kate Ellis became president and CEO of GLAAD in 2014 after a successful career as a media executive, and she has expanded the organization’s mission beyond that of media watchdog, having spoken out against discriminatory legislation in many states and mobilizing celebrities to do so, as with the music industry leaders who’ve done so in Tennessee. GLAAD is also running a major get-out-the-vote campaign this year. The organization hasn’t forgotten its media responsibilities, however, as it continues to monitor LGBTQ representation in film and TV and work for fair and inclusive news coverage. Ellis could be a fierce advocate in the White House.