Many folks in the LGBTQ community might assume that the first openly gay Presidential candidate would obviously be the top choice for our community, the one who has our best interests at heart. The desire to see ourselves reflected in positions of power is understandable, but we shouldn’t sacrifice transformational, lifesaving policies for a figurehead. Pete Buttigieg, sadly, would be just that. Nothing about his past or current policies gives any indication that he can meaningfully address some of the biggest challenges the Los Angeles LGBTQ community faces: accessible healthcare, equal pay, living wages, clean air and water, and affordable housing.
The LGBTQ community has a history of fighting for our lives, quite literally. Our movement was born out of struggle. When the government was content to let us die at the height of the AIDS epidemic, we fought back, demanding research and medication. We set up networks to care for each other. We led the way. When we did finally get some representation in Congress, the legislation that was pushed was tepid and compromised the most vulnerable members of our community. Time and again, financial interests were propped up, and protections for our trans brothers and sisters were sacrificed in order to maintain the status quo.
At times our strongest political advocates have come from outside our community, risking their political futures on unpopular actions and legislation because it was the right thing to do. Bernie Sanders has a strong history of supporting the LGBTQ community that dates back over 40 years, well before it was a popular stance to take. In the early 1970s, he ran for governor of Vermont on a platform that included abolishing anti-gay laws. He supported Burlington, Vermont’s first gay Pride parade in 1983 as mayor. Also as mayor of Burlington, he pushed through a 1984 housing ordinance outlawing housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
And then, of course, there’s his vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. He was one of only 67 members of the House to oppose DOMA, and at a time when 68% of the population opposed gay marriage. Sanders also voted against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and very vocally defended gay soldiers on the floor of Congress when a Republican Congressman from California, Duke Cunningham, criticized “homos in the military.” Sanders has continued to fight for the LGBT community in the Senate. He has co-sponsored and voted for legislation to prohibit discrimination in adoptions, the workplace, and the military. He voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as well as the Equality Act. He has strongly opposed the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back protections for the trans community.
In addition to LGBTQ-specific policies, Sanders’ broader goals would serve to uplift our community as a whole, particularly the most vulnerable amongst us, by increasing access to healthcare, education, and housing as well as mitigating the impending climate crisis. With Medicare for All, no one would go without access to affordable healthcare. This is vitally important as statistics show that LGBTQ individuals face health disparities linked to a variety of factors including stigma and discrimination which lead to higher incidences of mental illness, substance use, and suicide.
Under a Sanders administration, life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs would no longer be unaffordable to so many in our community. Trans folks would not have to continue to navigate an insurance system full of gaps in order to access basic, affirming care. Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would cover all prescriptions, including PrEP, as well as hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgical procedures. It would also increase access to mental health care. No other candidate’s healthcare plan is as comprehensive or would remove as many barriers to care. Unlike the proposed plans of some of the other candidates, Sanders’ plan lays out a clear timeline to gradually transition our healthcare system. With Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, our community would not just survive, we would thrive.
As fire season in California grows longer each year, summers get hotter and the air quality worsens, it’s clear that we need the strongest possible plan to address climate change; Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal plan is just that. It would not only address the climate catastrophe but also bring much-needed jobs to our region. Another national problem that is more apparent in Los Angeles than maybe anywhere else in the country is homelessness. Sanders’ comprehensive Housing For All plan proposes nationwide rent control, construction of millions of units of affordable housing and strengthening of Fair Housing initiatives. Sanders also has a plan that will reduce the most amount of student loan debt (all of it!) and has laid out detailed workplace protections and racial justice plans.
In addition to his lifetime of civil rights activism and bold, detailed policies, Sanders also has the advantage of a dedicated coalition of grassroots supporters who are already doing work on the ground; if anyone understands that the collective demand of the people is the most powerful force for change, it’s our community. This groundswell of support has led to Sanders’ polling numbers trending upward and he has consistently beaten Trump in numerous consecutive polls. He’s hugely popular with young people and has the most support with voters of color. Sanders also dominates in individual contributions spread out across the country. He’s got the momentum and support behind him to win.
Our community has never been one to shy away from bold, revolutionary action and this unprecedented moment in history is not the time for half-measures. This election we have the chance to not only topple the Trump regime but also to forge a new path for a better world. With a Sanders administration, we have the opportunity as a community to bring about radical changes that will benefit all of us. No one person can save all of us but all of us together can be a force for change. Let’s help elect Bernie Sanders so we can lead the way.