A Part of Our Founding Principles
Our Declaration of Independence holds that the inalienable rights of, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” are endowed to ALL humans by their creator at birth. In 2015, marriage equality became the law of the land, yet there is still no federal law explicitly protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities from discrimination. These communities, therefore, do not enjoy the full breadth of freedoms that this country espouses to guarantee to each and every citizen.
This is in direct violation of our founding principles.
Generation after generation, people have fought to rid our country of the “except for’s.” “Except for blacks,” “except for women,” and so forth. Today, we are challenged by the ongoing prejudice that seeks to repudiate the fundamental American dedication to freedom and equality for all. The idea that there should be God-given life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, “except for them,” is a stain on our national character.
The ability to pursue a livelihood free from discrimination is a right denied, every day, to members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. It is estimated that roughly 7% of the US Population identifies as LGBTQIA+. But this large percentage of our population still does not have full legal rights and due process rights in many aspects of their life.
Unfortunately, the problem is now even worse than that. Certain parts of the LGBTQIA+ population, particularly transgender women of color, are at higher risk for marginalization and even violence. This makes them a population that needs not only equal rights but the specific status of special protection. Under a Williamson administration, they would have that.
The Lack of LGBTQIA+ Protections Today
Currently, LGBTQIA+ citizens are not included in the non-discrimination protections provided by the federal Civil Rights Act, and in 30 states, there are no state laws that protect LGBTQIA+ Americans from discrimination.
A report from the Center for American Progress found that more than half of LGBTQIA+ individuals have experienced discrimination at work, and 68.5% of respondents said that anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination has impacted their mental health.
Hypothetically, you can legally enter into a same-sex marriage on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, you can be refused service at your local restaurant, denied partnership rights at your local hospital, fired by your employer for your orientation, and evicted from your home by your landlord – with little or no legal protections or recourse available.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, today, more than 320 bills described as “anti-LGBTQIA+” were introduced across 35 states, including adoption laws and so-called bathroom bills. A frightening percentage of these types of bills have become law over the last few years.
Every American deserves to live free from fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are and whom they love.
There have been ongoing efforts for over 60 years to change these “except for” legal loopholes. There has been meaningful, bipartisan legislation in the US House ever since 1974, and one version of this reform legislation has been introduced in every Congress since 1994.
Unfortunately, through the 118th Congress, all these reforms remain unpassed.
Additionally, violence against gay and transgender populations internationally should be of specific concern to the United States. Special asylum status should be granted based on patterns of violence against those now seeking refuge in this country. Unfortunately, there have been reports of violence against transgender persons in American custody, including ICE facilities. Such behavior would not be tolerated in a Williamson administration, and all perpetrators would be held accountable to the full extent of the law.
A Williamson Presidency Supports the Equality Act
In particular, the last Congress’ “Equality Act” (H.R. 5), a historic bipartisan bill, combined many of the issues from most of the past 60 years of effort to ban discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals. The Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQIA+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces, and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sexual orientation and expression of identity.
Additionally, the Equality Act would update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services. These important updates would strengthen existing protections for everyone.
Decades of civil rights history show that civil rights laws are effective in decreasing discrimination because they provide strong federal remedies targeted to specific vulnerable groups. By explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in these fundamental laws, LGBTQIA+ people will finally be afforded the exact same protections as other covered characteristics under federal law.
In the 117th Congress, the bill passed the House with 224 yea votes. Unfortunately, the companion bill died in the Senate Judiciary committee.
As President, I would call on Congress to bring this bill back and into consideration, then passage. I would be waiting to sign it when it came across my desk.
For clarity, these are the principles related to LGBTQIA+ communities that I will fight for as President.
The Williamson Administration will:
- Champion the original Equal Rights Amendment, as well as the Amendment for Constitutional Equality, which adds a more inclusive set of protections in the U.S. Constitution for marginalized groups.
- Fight for The Equality Act, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, the PRIDE Act, and other bills to prohibit discrimination by the United States (including the military), any state or local government, and private industry.
- Appoint cabinet members from LGBTQIA+ communities to ensure continued involvement and representation.
- Fight discrimination in healthcare settings, discrimination which endangers LGBTQIA+ people’s lives through delays, harassment, and humiliation by providers, to being turned away by hospitals, pharmacists, and doctors. All people who need medical care should be able to see their doctor without worrying about being mistreated, harassed, or denied service outright.
- Fight for The PrEP Access and Coverage Act to require all public and private insurance to cover HIV prevention medication and related services with no out-of-pocket costs.
- Restore cuts to local and global HIV/AIDS programs, including restoring funding to research, community support centers, and those supporting access to critical resources such as PrEP.
- Include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the federal Fair Housing Act, therefore making it illegal to deny any LGBTQIA+ citizen housing.
- Address the laws that in some states enable and embolden businesses and service providers to refuse to serve LGBTQIA+ citizens, by expanding spaces protected from discrimination to include public accommodations like shops and restaurants.
- Include LGBTQIA+ people in the census.
- Appoint an Attorney General who prioritizes prosecuting hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Move to end “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in violent crimes.
- Declare trans murder and suicide rates as a national emergency, providing much needed resources in our healthcare, education system, and social supports to address this epidemic.
- Take meaningful steps to end the opioid epidemic that disproportionately impacts historically underrepresented communities, such as LGBTQIA+.
- Support legislation mandating that police adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color who are often targeted in an unfair fashion, and mandate training programs to promote compliance with the new policy.
- Abolish police abuse of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Support federal legislation to develop and implement LGBTQIA+ inclusive public education and to combat bullying, as anti-LGBTQIA+ bullying in school can quadruple the likelihood of suicide, and LGBTQIA+ are more than three times as likely as their peers to be physically threatened or assaulted in school, and 72% have reported bullying or harrassment.
- Support the right to free speech, with a federal approach to protect and defend community spaces for LGBTQIA+ students, and provide support such as Gay / Straight Alliances and offering LGBTQIA+ specific school counseling.
- Fund houseless relief programs specifically targeting LGBTQIA+ youth, who are disproportionately represented in unsheltered populations across the board.
- Provide pathways to easily change legal identification, to match one’s name, identity, etc. Make it easy for the American people to have identification that reflects who they are instead of what others may want them to be.
- Support repealing any legislation or policy that purports to “protect” religious liberty at the expense of the rights of others.
The LGBTQIA+ communities are equal citizens of this country and thus deserve full and equal protection under the law. They should be able to pursue a livelihood free from discrimination and have all of the rights afforded under the US Constitution — not because of their sexual orientation — but because they are American citizens.
In a Williamson administration, no person, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, will feel unsupported by their government. They will live with the absolute knowledge that they and their rights are both honored and protected by the highest authorities in the land.