Democratic candidates running for president are increasingly talking about the rights of transgender Americans while out on the campaign trail. Two contenders who traveled through Iowa this past week – Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand – both had extended discussions at events in Davenport about their past support for the LGBTQ community and future plans.
Part of what’s driving the conversation is Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military, which goes into effect next month. Booker said the ban was “ridiculous, insulting, un-American.”
State issues are cropping up as well. An Iowa Supreme Court decision earlier this month allowed transgender people to use state Medicaid funding to help pay for medical costs related to their transition. The previous month, an Iowa transgender nurse won a lawsuit against the Iowa Department of Corrections for not allowing him to use a men’s restroom or locker room. Meanwhile, LGBTQ activists are pushing the Legislature to pass a ban on conversion therapy.
“I will have a Justice Department that stands for trans kids and all kids,” Booker said at his town hall forum in Davenport. “I am the original co-sponsor of the Equality Act because we still live in a country where in most states you can get married now, but when you go to work the next day, you can get fired from your job with no legal recourse just because you’re gay. You can get denied hotel accommodations by someone who doesn’t want to serve you just because you’re gay.”
He added that he’s been pushing a bill in the Senate on ending conversion therapy.
Gillibrand, at an event across the street from Booker’s two days later, also touted her record on LGBTQ issues, mentioning an adoption bill she was working on.
“I will stand up for every transgender person in our community,” Gillibrand said in Davenport. “No one should be demonized based on their gender identity. Certainly, no service member should be denied their right to serve based on their gender identity.”
The two also explained the personal experiences and motivations in their own lives that makes them particularly passionate on these issues.
“To understand who I am, where I come from – you talk about the Edmund Pettus Bridge, gay Americans and straight Americans marched for my rights,” Booker said. “My favorite author, James Baldwin – gay american, out and strong. When I was the mayor of the city of Newark, the first flag I raised in front of City Hall was the pride flag. This was 2006, when some of our Democratic colleagues hadn’t been involved.”
“Someone fought for my rights when my family members were denied equal accommodations, were denied jobs and housing because of the color of our skin,” Booker continued. “So, my rights are cheapened as long as there’s one American in this country who can’t get equal rights and equal justice.”
Gillibrand highlighted what she’s seen from her own children’s classmates in their school community in recent years.
“I watched a little girl in 5th grade cut her hair short, I watched her dye it blue in 6th grade, I watched her rename herself in 7th grade, and I watched her in 8th grade identify as a boy,” Gillibrand said. “And that’s exactly who President Trump demonizes. He demonizes that little boy and tries to tell him what restroom he can use, and that he’s somehow less-than. That’s somebody who’s not worthy to be President of the United States.”
Michelle Royal, the vice president of Quad Cities Pride, appreciated the Democrats’ remarks.
“I think both have great responses, a proven track record,” Royal said. “I think both of them are strongly in our corner.”
by Pat Rynard