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Which 2020 Election Candidate Is Best for LGBTQ Rights?

As we inch closer to 2020, all eyes are on the potential Democratic candidates who may be able to put an end to the Trump administration. In the wake of the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, gun control stands out as a hotly debated issue. But Democratic hopefuls have also been sharing their overall platforms to a large-scale audience, which include issues such as the taxation of rich Americans and marijuana legalization. Of particular interest to a wide range of voters is each candidate’s stance on LGBTQ rights.

An intense four-night debate kicked off on July 31, 2019 in Detroit, and discussion of lesbian, gay, and transgender rights was conspicuously absent. A whopping 21 candidates debated over four nights for more than 10 hours total. The omission of LGBTQ issues is even more glaring considering that the CNN-sponsored debate featured an openly gay moderator. Further, 2019 marks the first time an openly gay presidential candidate participated in an official debate: Pete Buttigieg, acting mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg announced his candidacy in April 2019 and faced almost immediate backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike. Republicans have criticized his youth and relative inexperience, while left-wing critics find some of Buttigieg's policies to be problematic. Specifically, Buttigieg believes that convicted felons should not be allowed to vote, a stance that clashes with that of many of his counterparts, including Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Buttigieg's stance on felon voting rights notwithstanding, his history-making candidacy itself should be reason enough for LGBTQ rights to make a significant appearance at presidential debates. So why was the issue glossed over by CNN moderators? Given this lack of coverage, which candidates are the strongest champions of the LGBTQ community?

Discrimination and Violence Against the LGBTQ Community

Despite the strides made in recent years, culminating in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, discrimination against the LGBTQ community remains rampant. Sometimes, that discrimination results in violence, so ensuring LGBTQ safety must remain a priority in the political arena. It's especially important for young people in the community to feel supported and comfortable in their own skin.

Discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation can lead to mental health issues later in life. For instance, Ohio University claims that, "LGBT youth report high instances of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when compared to non-LGBT youth." The problem is even more pronounced among homeless LGBTQ youth, up to 73% of whom are likely to experience suicidal ideation.

While the majority of violence directed towards gays, lesbians, and transgender people happens on a small scale, mass events have occurred. One of the most notorious in recent years was 2016's mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. More than 50 people, comprised of the LGBTQ community and allies, died in the attack, which was the deadliest on American soil since 9/11. Generally speaking, however, violence against the LGBTQ community is typically directed toward individuals.

The problem is too widespread to ignore, especially during an election cycle. As of 2014, hate crimes against the LGBT community in the U.S. surpassed those inflicted against Jewish populations. Black transgender women are the most frequently targeted, followed by black gay men.

Fighting for Inclusion and Equal Rights

As minority populations throughout the U.S. continue to grow, fostering widespread inclusion and equality becomes even more paramount. It could be argued that the Trump administration has done an abysmal job when it comes to embracing the diversity of America. However, it's not all bad news for the LGBTQ community, especially considering that drastic political change may be on the horizon.

In May 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, also known as the Equality Act, and the bill is now being considered in the Senate, although the Trump administration opposes the bill. H.R. 5 seeks to amend Title VII, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, national origin, color, or religion. If passed, H.R. 5 would replace the word "sex" in Title VII with the phrase "sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)." The bill would be a huge leap forward towards national LGBTQ equality, and numerous presidential candidates have voiced their support of H.R. 5.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and Buttigieg are among the bill's advocates. Yet it's New Jersey Senator and democratic hopeful Cory Booker who stands out where H.R. 5 is concerned: He was an original co-sponsor of the bill. Sen. Booker is also a long-time supporter of marriage equality. And while the fate of the Equality Act remains in limbo, candidates continue to focus on other LGBTQ rights issues, including healthcare access.

Looking to the Future

According the Advocate, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio boasts "one of the most LGBTQ-supportive records of any candidate" seeking the democratic nomination. And de Blasio's inclusive mayoral policies seem to support that opinion. In 2017, his office released NYC's inaugural LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights. Although the bill of rights laid out recommended policies rather than serving as city law, it's an indication of the mayor's position where LGBTQ health care is concerned.

The healthcare needs of the LGBTQ community are often unique. Transgender individuals may require hormones during transition, and surgical body modifications are sometimes part of the transition process as well. Sexual health is another important aspect of LGBTQ-based medical and preventive care, especially regarding sexually transmitted diseases.

The AIDS epidemic first made headlines in the 1980s, and the condition has been unfortunately associated with the LGBTQ community since that time. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, weakens the immune system and can be fatal. HIV is transmitted via bodily fluids and is treatable using antiretroviral drugs, although there is no known cure. Gay and bisexual men represent the largest at-risk group for contracting AIDS. Therefore, ensuring that the LGBTQ community has access to comprehensive healthcare that covers STD treatment and testing should be prioritized by presidential candidates.

While the possibility that the country's first openly gay president will serve in 2020 is remote, there's no denying that America's future hinges on the upcoming election. Advocating for the equality of all Americans, no matter gender identity or sexual orientation, may help reduce the frequency of hate crimes and targeted violence. The vast majority of democratic candidates support the LGBTQ community on various levels, but we need more information before choosing the best candidate. Equal rights and LGBTQ issues should be better addressed in future debates.

Posted by Magnolia at September 4, 2019 1:48 PM
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