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All the Democrats running for President in 2020 and their LGBTI records

All the Democrats running for President in 2020 and their LGBTI records

Democrats Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg

It may still be the first month of 2019, but the 2020 United States presidential election is already gearing up.

All eyes are on the Democratic Party and who they will choose as their nominee to run against Donald Trump, who will presumably win the Republican Party’s nomination again, as he seeks re-election.

Below are all the major Democratic contenders who have declared their candidacies and their LGBTI records.

A major candidate is someone who has held public office before. Other individuals have filed with the Federal Election Commission, but have not held public office nor appeared in major polls. They are not included in this list.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden
The former VP Joe Biden | Photo: Wikimedia/White House
  • HRC Score: 95
  • Positions Held: New Castle City Council (1970 – 1072), US Senator from Delaware (1973 – 2009), Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee (1987 – 1995), Chair of the International Narcotics Control Caucus (2007 – 2009), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2001 – 2003, 2007 – 2009), 47th Vice President of the US (2009 – 2017)

Joe Biden is one of the most seasoned and widely known Democrats running for President, after he announced his candidacy last week. He previously occupied two other prominent political positions for over four decades — United States Senator and Vice President to Barack Obama.

Compared to some of his younger and more left-leaning contenders, however, Biden has a spottier record on LGBTI rights.

In 1996, he voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which federally defined marriage as between a man and a woman. He also voted in favor of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a Senator.

Like many other older Democratic politicians, his career is marked by evolution.

Ten years after his DOMA vote, he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which sought to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman. He also later supported the courts repealing DADT.

In 2012, he said he’s ‘absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties’.

Biden’s bid for president has already come under scrutiny due to women coming forward and saying he’s made them uncomfortable or inappropriately touched them (lingering hugs, cheek kisses, etc). He is also dogged by his mishandling of the Anita Hill interviews during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

In an Emerson poll released in March, Biden led Trump by 10 points (55-45) in a general election race.

Cory Booker

US Senator Cory Booker has been an outspoken LGBTI ally
US Senator Cory Booker has been an outspoken LGBTI ally | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Newark City Council from the Central Ward (1998 – 2002), Mayor of Newark, New Jersey (2006 – 2013), US Senator from New Jersey (2013 – Present)

Cory Booker has been a longtime LGBTI ally throughout his political career — and has been transparent about his evolving feelings towards the LGBTI community.

In 1992, he penned an op-ed for The Stanford Daily in which he did not cushion his past feelings towards gay people.

‘Allow me to be more direct, escaping the euphemisms of my past – I hated gays. The disgust and latent hostility I felt toward gays were subcategories of hatred, plain and simple,’ he wrote.

He also revealed in the same article that in listening to a gay counselor at Stanford explain the discrimination and violence LGBTI people face, he understood the similarities between black and gay people, both coming from marginalized communities.

Since then, his actions have spoken volumes. When same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey in 2013, he officiated several marriages after midnight. Before this, he refused to officiate any weddings as a way of ‘protesting the painful reality that I could not marry all citizens equally’.

As a senator, he’s supported legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination and Equality Acts.

Recently, he has also been tough on various Trump nominees regarding LGBTI topics.

In a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released on 22 January, Booker led Trump by five percentage points (47-42) in a presidential match-up.

Peter Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/City of South Bend, Indiana
  • HRC Score: N/A
  • Positions Held: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana (2012 – Present)

Buttigieg is, so far, the only openly LGBTI Democratic candidate running for President. Beyond being the Mayor of South Bend, he is also a Rhodes Scholar and veteran of the War in Afghanistan, for which he took time out of his job as mayor to serve.

His primary work as mayor has focused on redevelopment and at 37, he is the youngest presidential candidate in the race.

He does not have the extensive political career as other candidates, and therefore no lengthy track record on LGBTI issues. There are many liberal policies he supports, such as universal healthcare, background checks for firearms, and abolishing capital punishment. He is also in favor of the Equality Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In April 2019, however, he said he would not extend the right to vote to people who are incarcerated. LGBTI users on Twitter took issue with this, as LGBTI people and people of color make up a large portion of the prison population.

Julián Castro

Julián Castro
Julián Castro | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: N/A
  • Positions Held: San Antonio City Council for the 7th District (2001 – 2005), Mayor of San Antonio, Texas (2009 – 2014), US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014 – 2017)

Castro, whose twin brother is a Congressman, is a long time supporter of LGBTI rights. A decade ago, he was the Grand Marshal in San Antonio’s Pride parade. In 2011, while he was mayor of the city, he supported an effort to extend domestic partner benefits to couples.

Another action he took as mayor was signing the 2012 petition, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

When Trump first announced his transgender military ban, he tweeted his support to trans service members.

John Delaney

John Delaney
John Delaney | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: US House of Representatives for Maryland’s 6th District (2013 – 2019)

Throughout his political career, Delaney has voted on numerous measures for LGBTI rights.

In 2012, he indicated on a survey that he supports same-sex marriage. One year later, his first year as a member of the House of Representatives, he co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act. This act prohibits discrimination and the exclusions of students from school activities based on their perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Since 2017, he has also served as a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

When he received a 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign, he responded: ‘I am honored to receive a perfect 100… No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.’

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii
Tulsi Gabbard, speaking at the National Guard Association of the United States conference | Photo: Wikimedia/Staff Sgt. Ryan Sheldon
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Hawaii House of Representatives for the 42nd District (2002 – 2004), Honolulu City Council for the 6th District (2011 – 2012), US House of Representatives for Hawaii’s 2nd District (2013 – Present)

Despite a perfect score from HRC, Gabbard’s start to her presidential campaign was rocky due to criticism of past homophobic comments. These included calling the LGBTI community and activists ‘homosexual extremists’. She also worked with her father’s anti-LGBTI organization The Alliance for Traditional Marriage.

She has since spent the majority of her campaign apologizing for these comments and actions.

More recently, she indicated she supports same-sex marriage and also co-sponsored the Equality Act.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: US House of Representatives for New York’s 20th District (2007 – 2009), US Senator from New York (2009 – Present)

Gillibrand has supported LGBTI rights for over a decade of her political career.

In 2007, she supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, making it illegal for a place of employment to discriminate on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Two years later, she wrote an op-ed for The Hill supporting the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). In it, she wrote: ‘My hope is that as people meet some of the brave servicemen and women that have been affected by this unfair and misguided policy, we can build support for repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and move toward allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly and honestly in our military.’

She expressed support for same-sex marriage before it was legalized at the state level in New York, and also opposes Trump’s transgender military ban.

In the PPP survey, Gillibrand leads Trump by five percentage points (47-42) in a presidential match-up.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris at Pride
Kamala Harris | Photo: InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: District Attorney of San Francisco (2004 – 2011), Attorney General of California (2011 – 2017), US Senator from California (2017 – Present)

Harris has a lengthy, but checkered, support of LGBTI rights in her home state of California.

She opposed the state’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, and when marriage equality was achieved in California, she officiated the first same-sex wedding. As a senator, she co-sponsored the Equality Act.

During her time as an attorney general, she co-sponsored a bill calling for the elimination of the so-called ‘gay panic’ defense.

At the start of her campaign, she apologized and took ‘full responsibility’ for legal briefs denying transgender inmates gender confirmation surgery when she was attorney general.

When pressed on this matter, Harris told the Washington Blade: ‘I believe that we are at a point where we have got to stop vilifying people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and we’ve got to understand that when we are talking about a particular transgender community, for too long they have been the subject of bias, and frankly, a lack of understanding about their circumstance and their physical needs in addition to any other needs they have, and it’s about time that we have a better understanding of that.’

In the PPP survey, Harris leads Trump by seven percentage points (48-41).

In the Emerson poll, Harris leads Trump by four points (52-48).

John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: N/A
  • Positions Held: Mayor of Denver, Colorado (2003 – 2011), Governor of Colorado (2011 – 2019), Chair of the National Governors Association (2014 – 2015)

Throughout his political career in Colorado, Hickenlooper publicly supported civil unions and same-sex marriage, years before the Supreme Court legalized it at a national level.

In 2012, Republicans in the state opposed legislation to legalize civil unions. Hickenlooper called a special session to challenge their opposition and a few months later, signed the civil unions legislation into law.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee
Inslee announcing his candidacy | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Washington House of Representatives from the 14th district (1989 – 1993), US House of Representatives from Washington’s 4th district (1993 – 1995), US House of Representatives from Washington’s 1st district (1999 – 2012), Governor of Washington (2013 – Present)

Inslee comes from a state largely considered one of the most liberal in the country. Washington is also known for its progressive stances on LGBTI rights.

Inslee has maintained these progressive stances throughout his political career. When first running as a gubernatorial candidate in Washington in 2011, he publicly supported same-sex marriage. This was four years before the US achieved marriage equality nationwide.

Two years later, in 2013 when he was elected governor, he said marriage equality ‘represents the best of who we are as a state’.

Most recently in 2018, Inslee signed legislation as governor protecting LGBTI youth in the state from conversion therapy.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar | Photo: Wikimedia/US Senate
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: County Attorney of Hennepin County (1999 – 2007), US Senator from Minnesota (2007 – Present), Ranking Member of Senate Rules Committee (2017 – Present)

Klobuchar is a midwestern politician who largely supports LGBTI rights, though is not as liberally progressive as other announced candidates.

She has supported numerous pieces of pro-LGBTI legislation, including both employment and student non-discrimination acts. She supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and supports same-sex marriage, first as a states issue and then nationally.

Regarding LGBTI discrimination in places of public accommodation, she called it ‘bad for business’ and said it hurts the economy.

Beto O’Rourke

Democrat Beto O'Rourke
Progressive candidate Beto O’Rourke | Photo: Wikimedia/US Government
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: El Paso City Council from the 8th district (2005 – 2011), US House of Representatives from Texas’ 16th district (2013 – 2019)

Not many people knew O’Rourke’s name outside of El Paso, Texas before 2018. Then he burst onto the scene with his run for US Senate. Though incumbent Ted Cruz narrowly beat him, O’Rourke still emerged as a new, progressive hero for the Democratic Party, supported by the likes of Beyoncé.

Though O’Rourke supports LGBTI rights, he does not have the extensive record of some other candidates. However, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed O’Rourke’s senate campaign and also previously gave him a perfect score of 100 while he served in the US House of Representatives.

During his time in the House, he advocated for women’s rights and also supported pro-LGBTI legislation. In 2013, he co-sponsored the  Student Non-Discrimination Act, prohibiting schools from discriminating on the basis of (perceived) sexual orientation or gender identity.

While running for Senate, O’Rourke was also vocally critical of anti-LGBTI judicial nominees from Donald Trump, such as Kyle Duncan.

In the PPP survey, O’Rourke leads Trump by six percentage points (47-41) in a presidential match-up.

In the Emerson poll, Trump leads O’Rourka by two points (51-49).

Tim Ryan

Ohio politician Tim Ryan
Ohio politician Tim Ryan | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Member of the Ohio Senate from the 32nd district (2001 – 2002), US House of Representatives from Ohio’s 17th and 13th districts (2003 – 2013, 2013 – present)

‘Our country has been divided for a long time,’ Ryan said on The View when he announced his candidacy. ‘The first thing we have to do is unify.’

Ryan has been a politician for nearly two decades and previously, his biggest move was trying to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader in 2016.

While his announcement to run has focused on blue-collar workers, his record shows an increasingly progressive stance on LGBTI rights. Previously, HRC gave him a 63%, indicating a mixed record on LGBTI rights.

Since then, however, he has changed his position, now earning a full 100%.

In Congress he’s signed numerous pro-LGBTI bills, including the Student and Employment Non-Discrimination Acts. He also voted no on constitutionally defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

He also previously possessed more of a pro-life stance on abortion, but has since stated it is a woman’s choice.

Bernie Sanders*

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders | Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981 – 1989), US House of Representatives for Vermont’s at-large district (1991 – 2007), US Senator from Vermont (2007 – Present), Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (2013 – 2015), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee (2015 – Present)

Sanders has touted his long-standing support of LGBTI rights.

In 1983, as mayor of Burlington, he approved a resolution declaring ‘Gay Rights Day’ (though LGBTI people of his native Vermont hesitated at calling him a ‘leader’ on LGBTI rights).

A decade later, he opposed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

He’s supported pro-LGBTI legislation like employment and student non-discrimination acts. He has also consistently voted against discriminatory legislation, such as constitutionally defining marriage as between a man and woman.

In 2015, when the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, Sanders said: ‘My view is that people have a right to love each other, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. […] I think, if people are in love, they should be able to get married in this country in 50 states in America. And I strongly support what the Supreme Court recently said.’

During his 2016 presidential run, he called out an anti-trans Trump supporter and told a conservative university he supports gay rights.

He is also a current cosponsor of the Equality Act.

In the PPP survey, he leads Trump by ten percentage points (51-41).

In the Emerson poll, Biden leads Trump by two points (51-49).

*Sanders is an Independent, but running as a Democrat.

Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell
Eric Swalwell is a Dem candidate for president | Photo: Wikimedia
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Dublin City Council (2010 – 2013), US House of Representatives from California’s 15th district (2013 – Present)

With a relatively short political career compared to other Democrats running, Eric Swalwell is trying to carve out a distinctive place for himself in a crowded race. He’s doing that by highlighting one specific issue above the rest: gun control.

This is an issue that appeals especially to younger and more liberal voters (such as LGBTI people, especially in the wake of the Pulse massacre).

On his government website, Swalwell has an extensive page about LGBTI rights and equality.

‘Everyone should be treated equally under the law. Love is love and I’m thrilled the Supreme Court agrees,’ the page begins.

It also highlights the various pro-LGBTI legislation he’s supported, including the Equality Act, Student Non-Discrimination Act, and Refund Equality Act (allows same-sex couples to file amended tax returns).

Along with Buttigieg, he is also one of the youngest candidates. Age is sometimes a deciding factor for voters, with people often saying they want ‘new blood’ in politics, and using it as a critique against candidates like Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren places Boston Gay Pride photo on her Facebook page
Senator Elizabeth Warren places Boston Gay Pride photo on her Facebook page | Photo: Facebook/Eliabeth Warren
  • HRC Score: 100
  • Positions Held: Chair of Congressional Oversight Panel (2008 – 2010), US Senator from Massachusetts (2013 – Present), Vice Chair of Senate Democratic Caucus (2017 – Present)

Warren has a long history of supporting LGBTI rights.

She supported the repeal of both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and (DADT). She also co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Last year, she co-signed a letter of 19 senators to Trump demanding that LGBTI health information remain on federal websites.

In 2015, she joined over 80 other members of Congress in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration. The letter asked for them to lift the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

Warren wrote a book, A Fighting Chance, and detailed an exchange she had with a father of a transgender child. She had given a speech on fighting for children’s futures and the father asked her if that included transgender kids, to which she responded: ‘We build a future for all our children. And that means transgender children. ALL our children — no exceptions.’

Like other candidates, she’s apologized for past comments about not supporting gender confirmation surgery.

In the PPP survey, she leads Trump by six percentage points (48-42).

In the Emerson poll, she leads by two points (51-49).


Richard Ojeda was previously running, but has since withdrawn his campaign.

See Also:

Republican lawmaker in Kansas defects to Democrats over trans issues

Gay husbands reveal why they left Democrats to become Trump fundraisers

Nancy Pelosi to make Equality Act a top priority, should Democrats take back Congress