Election News

Your complete list of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates & their history on LGBTQ issues

A view of the North Portico of the White House, Wednesday June 14, 2017 in Washington D.C. Photo: (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

UPDATE: We’re entering the period where hardly a week will go by without someone deciding to run–sometimes a serious candidate and sometimes, well, you know. This week, we’re adding two new candidates to the list: Sen. Corey Booker and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson.

So that you can follow along during what promises to be a busy primary season, here’s an up-to-date list of the declared candidates, with their record on LGBTQ issues.

We’ll be adding to the list as new candidates (invariably) declare.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker Cory Booker's Facebook page

Resumé. A graduate of Stanford and Yale Law, Booker began his political career in Newark, winning a seat on the Municipal Council in 1998. He was elected the city’s mayor in 2006, where he became nationally known for his aggressive effort to improve living conditions in the city. He also became a bit of a media celebrity, rescuing a woman from a burning building and shoveling the driveway of an elderly constituent during a blizzard.  Booker became New Jersey’s first African-American Senator in 2013 and established one of the most liberal voting records in Congress.

LGBTQ issues. Booker has been a long-time supporter of LGBTQ rights. When he was flirting with a gubernatorial run in 2012, Booker promised to push for a marriage equality law. He presided over same-sex weddings as Senator-elect and gave an impassioned speech in support of marriage equality from the Senate floor when the Supreme Court was considering the Obergefell case. During Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearings last year to become Secretary of State, Booker pressed the former Congressman on whether he considers being gay “a perversion.” (Hint: He does.) He has a 100 percent voting record from HRC.

Late last year, the unmarried Booker had to affirm in an interview that he is heterosexual, following an anonymous (and highly suspect) claim on Twitter that he had assaulted a gay man. Previously, Booker had dismissed the rumors as beside the point. “So what does it matter if I am?” he said in 2013. 

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg Pete Buttigieg's Facebook page

Resumé. Buttigieg graduated from Harvard and was a Rhodes scholar before working on political campaigns, including John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Buttigieg unsuccessfully ran for Indiana state treasurer in 2010. He was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana, his home town, in 2011 and re-elected four years later. During his re-election campaign, Buttigieg came out as gay.

While serving as mayor, Buttigieg was deployed to Afghanistan for a seven-month tour of duty in 2013 as a naval intelligence officer in the reserves. Last year, he married Chasten Glezman at a church ceremony, followed by the couple celebrating at the city’s pride block party. At 37, Buttigieg is just two years older than the age required to qualify as a presidential candidate.

Record on gay issues. Putting aside the fact that he’s gay, Buttigieg doesn’t have much of a voting record–which isn’t a criticism. South Bend already had a nondiscrimination ordinance, the major law that a city can enact, when was he was elected mayor. Most of Buttigieg’s record is in the form of resistance. He came out in response to the state’s disastrous religious liberty bill and has been vocal in criticizing fellow Hoosier and former governor Mike Pence as a “social extremist.”

Julián Castro

Julian Castro Julian Castro's Facebook page

Resumé. A graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law, Castro began his political career in 2001 as a member of the San Antonio City Council, becoming mayor eight years later.

His first moment of national attention came in 2012, when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. He joined the Obama administration in 2014 as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, making him the youngest Cabinet member. He stayed in the position through the end of Obama’s term in office. He was on Hillary Clinton’s short list of potential VP candidates.

LGBTQ record. Castro staked out pro-LGBTQ positions early in his career. As mayor, he served as grand marshal for San Antonio’s pride parade and successfully pushed for a city nondiscrimination ordinance. Castro also joined other big-city mayors in support of marriage equality.

For his support of LGBTQ issues, Republicans branded him “the lethal tentacle of Obama.” At HUD, Castro continued his advocacy; after his departure, he criticized the Trump administration for its policies, including its refusal to collect LGBT census data.

John Delaney

John Delaney John Delaney's Facebook page

Resumé. After attending Columbia University and Georgetown Law, Delaney went on to found two companies, each of which ended up being publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, In 2012, he ran for Congress in Maryland and was subsequently re-elected twice. He announced his candidacy for president in 2017, choosing not to seek re-election in Congress.

LGBTQ record. Delaney was a dependable supporter of LGBTQ issues in Congress, earning a 100 percent rating from HRC.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard Tulsi Gabbard's Facebook page

Resumé. Gabbard is a four-term congresswoman from Hawaii. She served in Iraq as a member of the Hawaii State National Guard. She was vice chair of the National Democratic Committee, resigning in early 2016 to endorse Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

Her most visible act in Congress was meeting secretly with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on a trip two years ago. Her repeated attacks on “radical Islam” have earned her a spot as a regular guest on the Fox News line up.

LGBTQ record. It’s complicated.

Gabbard is the daughter of Mike Gabbard, who founded Stop Promoting Homosexuality America 20 years ago, and successfully stopped when Hawaii from becoming the first state to legalize marriage equality.

Tulsi Gabbard began her career echoing her father. “As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists,” Gabbard herself said as a state legislator. She also worked for a group that touted conversion therapy.

Just nine years later, Gabbard was among the Hawaii Congressional members calling for the state to pass marriage equality. She attributes her turnabout to her experience serving in the military. She currently has a 100 percent voting score from HRC and issued two apologies for her past comments after declaring her presidential candidacy.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand Kirsten Gillibrand's Facebook page

Resumé. Gillibrand graduated from Dartmouth College and UCLA School of Law, beginning her career as an attorney in private practice. Eventually, she become involved in politics, successfully running for Congress from upstate New York in 2006.

When Hillary Clinton resigned from the Senate to become Secretary of State in 2009, Gillibrand was named her successor. She won a special election in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012 and 2018.

LGBTQ record. As a representative, Gillibrand was a sponsor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA); as a Senator, she helped lead the effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Her voting record has earned her a 100 percent score from HRC.

Her position on marriage equality is emblematic of many Democrats who, in Barack Obama’s phrasing, “evolved” over time. Early in her political career, Gillibrand said she personally supported marriage equality but believed the matter should be left to the states. Still, she was an early advocate of marriage equality; by the time of her appointment to the Senate, she was one of just six senators who had given it their support.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris Kamala Harris's Facebook page

Resumé. Harris is a native Californian, born to immigrant parents (her father is from Jamaica and her mother from India). She got her law degree from the University of California, Hastings School of Law.

Once she was admitted to the bar in 1990, she started a lengthy career as a prosecutor, first as an assistant prosecutor in the Bay Area, then as San Francisco’s District Attorney and finally as the California State Attorney General. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Her aggressive questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing earned her accolades from progressives.

LGBTQ record. Harris has been a long-time proponent of LGBTQ rights. As San Francisco’s district attorney, she created a special hate crimes unit focused on crimes against LGBTQ children and teens. She pushed for legislation to ban a gay/transgender “panic” defense and to ban conversion therapy for minors.

She vigorously opposed Proposition 8, the state’s anti-marriage measure, and provided legal arguments against it cited by the Supreme Court when it was overturned. When Proposition 8 was finally struck down, Harris presided over the wedding of the couple who brought the suit against the initiative.

While Harris has a 100 percent voting record from HRC, she has been subject to criticism for her opposition to gender reassignment surgery for transgender prisoners when she was attorney general. She now says she takes “full responsibility,” but was only doing her job despite her personal feelings on the subject.

“There are unfortunately situations that occurred where my clients took positions that were contrary to my beliefs,” she said. “But the bottom line is the buck stops with me, and I take full responsibility for what my office did.”

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Warren's Facebook page

Resumé. Warren began her career as an academic, eventually working her way up to become a professor of law at Harvard. An expert in bankruptcy law, she was appointed to a Congressional oversight panel during the 2008 financial crisis, where she made her mark as the foremost advocate for the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which Trump has been gutting).

She successfully ran for Senate from Massachusetts in 2012, defeating incumbent Republican (and Cosmo centerfold) Scott Brown. In the Senate, Warren positioned herself as a consumer advocate and Republican scourge.

In one famous episode, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had her censured for quoting Coretta Scott King’s criticism of then-Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. (“Nevertheless, she persisted.”) Warren handily won re-election last November.

LGBTQ record. Warren came to office pledging to be strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, staking out a stand for marriage equality before President Obama did. She has been a vocal opponent of some of Trump’s worst nominees, including Jeff Sessions, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. She was among 19 Senators that urged Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services to keep collecting data on LGBTQ people.

While Warren has a 100 percent voting scorecard from HRC, she hasn’t always been supportive of transgender rights. Much like Harris, she recently reversed her position opposing gender reassignment surgery for transgender prisoners, something Warren has said in 2012 was not “a good use of taxpayer dollars.”

Marianne Williamson

Marianne WIlliamson Marianne WIlliamson's Facebook page

Resumé. Williamson has the distinction of being the only former cabaret singer in the race–so far. Williamson dropped out of Pomona College after two years to move to New York to pursue that dream, but eventually returned to Calfornia, where she became a known for her lectures on spirituality.

The lectures coincided with the rise of the AIDS epidemic, and Williamson message of love without condemnation struck a chord in the gay community. Williamson threw herself into the fight against the epidemic, founding the Los Angeles Center for Living, a support services organization for people with AIDS, and Project Angel Food, a food service for housebound people with AIDS.

By 1992, Williamson had parlayed her popularity into a series of best-selling spiritual books, becoming an Oprah-approved celebrity. In 2014, Williamson made an unsuccessful run for Congress from California. Most recently, she’s been on a Love America Tour, which promises “a revolution in consciousness [that] paves the way to both personal and national renewal.”

LGBTQ issues. It’s safe to say that no one has longer or more in-depth ties to the gay community than Williamson. At a time when gay men with AIDS were treated as pariahs, Williamson was one of the few who offered comfort and hope. “Many gay men came to my lectures at that time, eager to hear of a God who loved them no matter what,” Williamson recalled. 

That doesn’t mean Williamson is without her critics. Her handling of Project Angel Food was especially contentious and led to a split between the East Coast and West Coast branches of the organization and Williamson’s departure. At the time of the blow up, the Los Angeles Times characterized her as having a “temperamental, imperious nature–‘the bitch for God,’ as Williamson has wryly described her reputation.”

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang Yang2020.com

Resumé. Largely unknown to the public, Yang declared his presidential candidacy in 2017, making him the first Asian-American to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. After graduating from Brown and Columbia Law School, Yang became an entrepreneur, working at a variety of small companies before becoming CEO of a Manhattan Prep, a test preparation service that was eventually acquired by Kaplan Inc.

He went on to found the nonprofit Venture for America, whose mission is “to create economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs.”

LGBTQ record. Yang’s primary focus has been to promote a universal basic income for all Americans of $1,000 per month, no questions asked. On his campaign site, Yang says that “the law should recognize and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals. I’ve always been pro-gay marriage; why should straight people have all of the fun? People are people and all love is beautiful.”

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