Here’s where U.S. presidential candidates stand on LGBTQ2S+ rights

Queer and trans rights will be a major issue in the 2024 U.S. presidential election

LGBTQ2S+ rights have been thrust to the forefront of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, with many presidential hopefuls vowing to roll back the rights and civil liberties of queer and trans Americans. In the wake of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, however, there are only a handful of candidates left in the once-crowded race, with Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswany being among the most recent to suspend their campaigns. The stances and campaign platforms of those remaining are now even more crucial to the future of the country. 

Here’s where the top presidential contenders stand on LGBTQ2S+ rights:

Joe Biden (Democrat)

President Joe Biden’s stance on LGBTQ2S+ rights has drastically evolved throughout his political career. While he once opposed same-sex marriage and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages, he has since grown in his support for the queer and trans community. In 2012, then vice president Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay couples getting married, adding that queer people are “entitled to the same exact rights” as straight people. 

Nearly a decade later, as president, he signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which effectively repealed DOMA. During his presidency, Biden also lifted his predecessor’s ban on trans people in the military and reversed a Trump-era policy that removed healthcare protections for trans patients. In addition, the president has urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would expand federal non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ2S+ community. Despite vowing to protect trans kids, however, Biden’s Department of Education proposed changes to Title IX protections last year that would prevent trans students from being “categorically” banned from school sports, but would also still allow school districts to limit trans students’ participation. 

Donald Trump (Republican)

Former president Donald Trump, who is currently facing 91 criminal charges, has spent his political career attacking the hard-won rights of LGBTQ2S+ Americans. During his time in office, the Republican frontrunner banned trans people from serving in the military, rolled back federal protections for trans students, pushed the Supreme Court to legalize workplace discrimination against queer and trans people and reversed healthcare protections for trans people under the Affordable Care Act. 

 

He also prohibited U.S. embassies from flying rainbow flags during Pride Month, removed LGBTQ2S+ language, data and resources from government websites, proposed a rule to discriminate against unhoused trans people, and finalized a rule to allow taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against queer and trans couples on the basis of religious freedom. Throughout his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly attacked trans people, vowing to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth and to punish doctors who provide this care. The twice-impeached former president has also continually mocked trans athletes on the campaign trail and even promised to ban trans women from participating in women’s sports. 

Nikki Haley (Republican)

Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador and governor of South Carolina, has had a much less exhaustive history regarding her opposition to LGBTQ2S+ rights than her Republican competitor, but she has certainly ramped up the anti-trans rhetoric throughout her campaign. Haley targeted gender-affirming care for minors and suggested that trans kids are to blame for suicidal ideation among teenage girls—a demonstrably false accusation. Calling trans youth participation in sports the “women’s issue of our time” during an interview in December, Haley promised to “fight” against school policies that allow trans girls and women to play on women’s sports teams. She also attacked trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney for supposedly “mocking women,” misgendering Mulvaney in the process. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Independent)

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent candidate, has been adamant about his support for LGBTQ2S+ rights, even in the face of blowback, but not all of his opinions align with this claim. While Kennedy has urged the importance of protecting gay rights and respecting people’s gender identities, he is against trans women playing on women’s sports teams and thinks “puberty blocker drugs need to be looked into.” The anti-vaxxer also suggested that there are chemicals in the water supply causing “gender confusion” in children. 

Marianne Williamson (Democrat)

Marianne Williamson, a Democrat and self-help author, says she “absolutely” supports LGBTQ2S+ people, pledging to champion the Equality Act and take steps to protect the community from discrimination and violence. Although Williamson once told HIV/AIDS patients in 1992 that “sickness is an illusion,” her 2024 campaign website contains an exhaustive list of pro-LGBTQ2S+ campaign promises, one of which vows to restore funding to HIV/AIDs programs. She has also promised to declare trans murder and suicide rates a national emergency, abolish the gay/trans panic defence and repeal legislation that champions religious liberty at the expense of LGBTQ2S+ rights. 

Dean Phillips (Democrat)

Dean Phillips, a U.S. representative who came in second in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act and a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus. After Canada issued a travel advisory last year warning LGBTQ2S+ people of the risks of visiting certain states in the U.S., Phillips tweeted that the country “must ensure safety, security and hospitality for the LGBTQ2S+ community from sea to shining sea.” He has also previously displayed the trans Pride flag in his office.

Catherine Caruso is a freelance journalist covering culture, politics, education, and LGBTQ rights. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, The Daily Beast, NBC News THINK, LGBTQ Nation and DAME Magazine, among others. She lives in Emmaus, Pennsylvania and speaks English.

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