Ahead of tonight’s town hall on LGBTQ+ equality, Kamala Harris has expanded on her vision for queer and transgender rights if elected to the White House.
The California Senator outlined an extensive, wide-ranging agenda that builds on many of her previous pledges to the LGBTQ+ community and prior LGBTQ+ advocacy dating back to her time as the San Francisco District Attorney. As president, Harris would urge the passage of the Equality Act, seek to outlaw conversion therapy nationwide, reverse Trump’s trans military ban, restore rollbacks on federal LGBTQ+ data collection, and appoint a Chief Advocate for LGBTQ+ Affairs in the White House.
“Right now, far too many members of the LGBTQ+ community experience unequal treatment — from the worker who is fired for who she loves to the trans student whose school refuses him access to the appropriate bathroom,” Harris says. “Discrimination is wrong, and Kamala will fight tirelessly to end it.”
Her platform, which includes about two dozen pro-LGBTQ+ proposals, is broken up into three sections: “Repealing the Trump/Pence Hate Agenda,” “Securing Equality for LGBTQ+ Community,” and “Lifting Up the Transgender Community.”
On the subject of reinstating protections rolled back by the current administration, Harris calls for the passage of the Census Equality Act, a bill she cosponsored to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on the decennial U.S. population survey. She would also push forward the Do No Harm Act, a federal bill to prevent state and local “religious freedom” laws from being used to target or deny services to LGBTQ+ people in the name of faith.
The Senator’s proposal for restoring rollbacks of LGBTQ+ equality also includes the creation of a White House Office dedicated to combating violence against members of the trans community and rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes across the country. As part of that mission, Harris also vows to appoint LGBTQ+ people to Cabinet positions in her administration and to seats on federal courts.
“When LGBTQ+ people have a seat at the table, the entire nation benefits from the perspective and experience they draw upon to create a more just and inclusive America,” she says.
Her plan to further equality for all LGBTQ+ Americans centers queer and trans youth by pledging to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would seek to improve anti-bullying efforts and ensuire LGBTQ+ students are treated equally in schools. She also calls to enact the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prevent LGBTQ+ minors from being subjected to efforts to “cure” their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Her LGBTQ+ health care agenda includes making HIV-prevention medications like PrEP affordable for the average consumer and requiring public and private insurers to cover the drug — which has been shown to greatly reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission — in their plans.
Meanwhile, her Medicare for All plan covers both HIV treatment and prevention and gender-affirming care for trans individuals, including hormones and surgery.
Lastly, Harris’ plan for transgender equality includes training local law enforcement in LGBTQ+ competency and addressing the intersections of sexual orientation and gender identity in racial profiling via the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act. She also calls for increasing reporting of hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, which are often not tracked by local police departments.
In addition, the trans community is central to her criminal justice platform, which includes ending cash bail, abolishing private prisons, and reducing LGBTQ+ incarceration rates, the latter of which she believes is critical in decreasing the high rates of violence that transgender people experience in U.S. prisons.
“According to a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, transgender people are 10 times as likely to be sexually assaulted by their fellow inmates and five times as likely to be sexually assaulted by staff,” she says, adding that “the best way to address the issue is to seek alternatives to incarceration to prevent trans individuals from being incarcerated in the first place.”
While her sweeping agenda also discusses establishing a “transgender fellowship to help lift up promising young leaders” and ensuring LGBTQ+ refugees are able to safely seek asylum in the U.S., there are some areas she does not address — even despite her own previous advocacy on those issues.
For instance, while Harris has called to decriminalize sex work after criticism over her support for FOSTA/SESTA, she does not discuss the impact of that plan on members of the LGBTQ+ community, who are disproprtionately likely to engage in sex work. She also does not outline a plan to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, even though she has called to end blood policy discrimination since her days as the California Attorney General.
And in another odd oversight, Harris discusses her longtime advocacy to end the use of the LGBTQ+ panic defense, in which those accused of murdering queer and trans people claim the homicide was in some way justified by the victim’s idenity. However, she does not talk about signing a bill banning the legal defense into law.
Perhaps these all seem like givens considering that Harris has already addressed them, but it’s notable that the Senator didn’t take the opportunity to reiterate her own policies.
Harris will have the opportunity to delve further into her platform in the Town Hall hosted by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. She will join nine presidential candidates on stage, including Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, who also unveiled LGBTQ+ platforms on Thursday. Notable differences include Buttigieg’s call to allow trans and gender nonconforming people to update their gender markers on birth certificates and passports (not mentioned in Harris’ proposal) and Warren’s admission that she is “open” to decriminalizing sex work.
But Harris, who married same-sex couples 15 years ago as the San Francisco DA, says that she will continue to demonstrate her allyship to LGBTQ+ people throughout the Democratic primary race — where she is currently polling in fourth.
“Kamala has been a champion for LGBTQ+ equality throughout her career,” her platform says. “When most Democrats were on the sidelines, Kamala stood with the community by fighting for marriage equality. ... There is no one in this race who has a longer or deeper record on this issue.”
You can read Harris’ entire LGBTQ+ platform on her website.