Health care discussions in the presidential primary have increasingly begun to include specific ideas for the LGBTQ community. Beto O’Rourke recently rolled out his “LGBTQ+ Equality” policy proposal aimed at ensuring everyone can “live openly without fear of discrimination or violence.”
“What I appreciated [about the proposal] at first was that we need to address the efforts made by Trump. Looking at the list, it’s sad to me how many executive actions it would take to reverse what he’s done,” said Nate Monson, Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools.
O’Rourke’s proposal includes three key means for using the presidency to further LGBTQ equality:
- “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.
- Work with allies to strengthen protections for the LGBTQ+ community globally.”
“President Trump’s administration has made it their mission to roll back protections for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender Americans, defying their constitutional guarantee of Equal Protection,” the proposal states.
Regardless of who might replace Trump in the White House, Monson says it is critical that the next president supports the LGBTQ movement with the same fervor with which Trump opposes it.
“Frankly, it’s life or death for a lot of individuals, especially our trans community. Especially with the trans Medicaid ban and the trans military ban; you’re saying that they are not the same as someone else,” Monson explained. “When we see an uptick in murders against our trans community, it really becomes life or death. It’s really important that we have a president in the White House who backs the LGBTQ community, that shows up to pride, listens to students, and that speaks out on these issues.”
One part of O’Rourke’s executive action plan is ensuring that LGBTQ Americans are included in federal data collection efforts through increased “identity measures in the Census and the Bureau of Justice Statistics,” as well as a commitment to appointing judges and executive branch officials who “have demonstrated a record of supporting full civil rights of all individuals.”
“We need judges who are supportive of equality. No one should be serving a lifetime appointment on the bench who are, frankly, hateful or mean-spirited to any group of individuals,” said Monson. “We know that a lot of these cases are going through the court system, and they will for the next 10 years, so we need judges who will uphold equality.”
In an effort to make up from the harm done by the Trump Administration, O’Rourke will use executive action to overturn the transgender troop ban and all resulting discharges, overturn the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy and practice of discharging HIV+ service-members, enforce the Equal Access Rule, disallow federally-funded adoption and foster care agencies from rejecting same-sex families, cut down on religious exemptions that enable discrimination and fully back Title VII and Title IX in regard to protections for LGBTQ women and people of color.
The final piece of the executive action plan also includes protecting transgender individuals through the DOJ, law enforcement training, and updating laws on identity documents, including LGBTQ individuals fleeing persecution as a ‘vulnerable population’ for immigration-enforcement purposes, protecting youth from conversion therapy and creating an Interagency Task Force on LGBTQ+ Nondiscrimination to help “end discrimination in federal programs and actions.”
O’Rourke also outlined a number of legislative priorities to work on with Congress. These include passing the Equality Act, which targets discrimination in hiring, marketplaces, housing, access to public spaces and services, health insurance and health care – including transition-related care and hormone treatments.
“I mean talking about the marketplaces for queer individuals who live in rural communities for example, people talk about wedding cakes, and these other aspects of weddings; if I’m a queer person in a rural community, I may only have one floral option in an hour radius,” Monson explained.
O’Rourke’s plan addresses the need to protect market access for marginalized groups in places that aren’t as accepting – which is where the policy is needed the most.
“It’s really important that we codify those protections for LGBTQ persons,” Monson said. “It’s not impacting a queer person in New York City as much as it would a person living in, say, Algona, Iowa, where your services are limited in that access, so we have to protect that; it’s so critical.”
The legislative plan also includes reforming our criminal justice system by tying federal funding for local law enforcement agencies with the “implementation of anti-discrimination and anti-profiling policies,” ending the deprivation of health care and HIV treatment in prisons, reforming the Prison Rape Elimination Act to prevent abuse, and holding law enforcement accountable for “unlawful actions against the LGBTQ+ community.”
Protecting The LGBTQ Community Across The Globe
O’Rourke will also work to cover LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers to ensure they can “resettle in communities that will fully accept them,” and work with allies to establish a global treaty with the UN which explicitly protects individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, sex characteristics and gender identity.
Aside from these provisions, O’Rourke is also committing to investing in the Global Equality Fund to “assist groups that support the human rights of LGBTQ+ persons” and establish a “special envoy for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people within the Department of State.”
“The global piece is really critical for the future of the LGBTQ movement. There’s more countries with marriage equality now than ever, but for a lot of folks, just being gay is a death sentence,” Monson said. “We need to step up and say ‘no, we’re not gonna do this anymore.’”
by Josh Cook
Photo by Julie Fleming