Despite the fact that she’s one of roughly 23 candidates running for president, Elizabeth Warren has quickly carved a prominent place for herself in the American consciousness thanks to her wholehearted embrace of social media and, of course, the fact that she always has a plan.
First, she introduced the idea of an ultra-wealth tax. Then she rolled out a comprehensive education reform plan. And now? Warren released her comprehensive LGBTQ rights agenda today, which would cover everything from overturning President Donald Trump’s trans military ban to lifting the ban on blood donation for gay men.
And as with everything Warren does, the “plan” (more of a running look at her current initiatives) is full of details. So what’s in it? We break it down.
What does Warren propose?
Warren sent her feelings on the matter to NewNowNext, an LGBTQ news and entertainment site. She promised to do the following:
- Reverse the trans military ban, which Trump first announced in July 2017 and officially went into effect in April 2019 after the Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional.
- Reverse the State Department’s decision to deny “family visas to the same-sex domestic partners of diplomats posted in the United States” and give “those already in the country three months to marry or lose their visas.” Per NewNowNext, gay marriage is only legal in two dozen countries worldwide, effectively making this a ban on queer diplomats.
- Enact protections for transgender people, who are not often explicitly protected by anti-discrimination laws
- Outlaw conversion therapy.
- End “discrimination against gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood” who must currently abstain from sex for at least 12 months in order to qualify, due to the perceived risks of HIV/AIDS transmission.
On top of her platform, she has also publicly supported the bipartisan Equality Act, a bill which would “address a remaining gap in civil rights laws” which offer no explicit protections in housing, public accommodations, or the workplace for LGBTQ individuals on the federal level. Similarly, only 21 states offer protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and only one for sexual orientation. The bill just passed the Democrat-controlled House, and now it must go to the GOP-led Senate, meaning its odds of survival are not great. Warren would likely push for legislation like this were she president.
Further, she’d also implement the Refund Equality Act, a piece of legislation she co-sponsored in 2017 which would provide same-sex couples an exemption on IRS-mandated time limits on retroactively filing adjustments to taxes to reflect their married status. To put simply: when couples get married, they have three years to start filing jointly, and they can file for adjustments on past tax returns to reflect their changed (often more advantageous) tax bracket as a married couple. A three-year window is all well and good when you’ve always been allowed to get married, but for LGBTQ couples, the legislation would simply allow same-sex couples to reclaim overpayments dating back to the time they actually got married, rather than the three-year limit imposed by the IRS.
Why is she proposing such a comprehensive agenda?
In an email statement to NewNowNext, she wrote, “Our LGBTQ friends across the country continue to face discrimination at work, at school, and in their communities. At every turn, President Trump and his right-wing allies have been doing whatever they can to unravel their rights.”
She is, of course, referring to things like the trans military ban, which has no basis in medical science and is, in fact, a direct threat to the health and well-being of transgender military members and the October 2018 State Department decision to ban same-sex partner visas for diplomats. But beyond that, here’s what the Trump administration has done to LGBTQ rights:
- Appointed numerous anti-LGBTQ judges to lifetime positions in federal courts around the country.
- Withdrew from the lawsuit fighting North Carolina’s infamous anti-trans bathroom bill.
- Created a hostile work environment for LGBTQ employees at the Justice Department.
- Dismantled LGBTQ-focused health initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services, including creating a new “religious liberty division” which defends health workers who refuse to work with LGBTQ patients.
- Stopped collecting health data on LGBTQ youth in foster care.
- Strengthened a 2018 rule allowing health workers to refuse to work with LGBTQ patients under the guise of religious liberty.
- Openly opposed the Equality Act.
- Withdrew a 2016 guidance requiring schools to protect transgender students under Title IX.
- Ended the Obama-era bathroom guidance, meaning transgender students can be forced to use the bathroom aligning with the sex they were assigned at birth, putting them at risk of harassment and violence.
- Cut $250 million of funding from Global Fund and $1.5 billion from PEPFAR, two nonprofits which are essential to fighting HIV/AIDS
- Fired the entire White House HIV/AIDS Council.
- Withdrew federal guidance barring anti-LGBTQ discrimination at homeless shelters in 2017; the guidance also required shelters to house trans folks consistent with their gender identity.
- Granted an exemption to adoption and foster care agencies in South Carolina who do not want to work with LGBTQ individuals and couples.
- Changed rules in federal prisons to adopt a policy of housing transgender inmates with populations matching the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cartoonishly anti-LGBTQ: this is the Trump administration, despite their assertion that Trump “supports the equal treatment of all.” And this is only part of what Warren was referring to in her statement. Despite the fact that toward the end of the Obama administration LGBTQ rights were improving, the country still had a long way to go. And now, Warren has proposed this plan in order to not only make up for the damage done by the current administration but to further cement rights that should have existed long ago.
Is it enough?
Though this isn’t being treated as Warren’s official plan, some members of the LGBTQ community are pushing back slightly, calling her plan too narrow.
Lawyer and advocate Chase Strangio tweeted, “Hey @ewarren – I really really support you in many ways but your LGBTQ plan is so basic and grounded in formalistic notions of equality and is not going to save the lives of the Black and Indigenous trans people who need material and radical change. What about prisons, sex work?”
Strangio followed up their tweet with another explaining, “If conversion therapy bans, the military, and federal non-discrimination laws is all we focus on in the LGBTQ space then we have wholly failed.”
Strangio isn’t just pulling things out of thin air: LGBTQ people would benefit heavily from the decriminalization of sex work. Additionally, the incarceration rate of LGBTQ people is three times higher than the general population, and trans people are especially vulnerable to abuse in the prison system. These more complicated issues are part and parcel of the LGBTQ community.
That said, while she has always been considered an ally, Warren has made gaffes — and shown growth in the past in regards to LGBTQ issues. Namely: in 2012, she publicly stated she did not support transition-related medical care for transgender prison inmates, saying she didn’t think it was a good use of taxpayer dollars. But in January 2019, a spokesperson told ThinkProgress that she has evolved on the matter, and she absolutely supports transition-related care for inmates.
In other words: given that she’s so very online — even offering to help a television writer with her love life — perhaps she’ll address Strangio’s concerns. After all, “she has a plan for that.”