The 2020 Candidates on Civil Rights


Where are the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on the issue of civil rights?

Civil rights was identified by the 2018 midterm voters as one of their most pressing concerns, and is one of the seven issues I covered in my 2020 candidate guides. Many of the readers here at Political⚡Charge asked me to organize the information in those guides by issue, and so, by popular demand, here we are.

In alpha order, here are where the 2020 candidates stand on the issue of civil rights. You can click on the candidate’s names to go their campaign website to learn more.

Michael Bennet

LGBTQ Rights: “Bennet is the author of legislation to direct resources to improve the sexual health of older Americans, including LGBTQ+ and rural senior populations. He is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act.” Source

Marriage Equality: “Bennet said he supported same-sex marriage but believed it should be decided by the states. In 2012, he voiced his full support for same-sex marriage.” Source

Transgender Rights: “Bennet opposes the Pentagon’s policy banning transgender individuals from joining the military, which took effect last month.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “Bennet was a sponsor for the justice reform First Step Act bill in 2016, which limited juvenile solitary confinement and reduced minimum sentences for some repeat non-violent drug crimes.” Source


Joe Biden

LGBTQ Rights: “Serving as vice president of the United States between 2008 and 2016, Biden earned a reputation as a solid supporter of LGBT+ rights, advocating for equal rights in the US and around the world.” Source

Women’s Rights: “As vice president, Biden appointed the first White House advisor on Violence Against Women to prevent gender-based violence worldwide. In the Senate, he authored the Violence Against Women Act and led the charge to pass it.” Source

Equal Rights Amendment: Biden is supportive of the Equal Rights Amendment and has actively campaigned for it. Source

Evolved Stance on Marriage Equality: “In a 5 May 2012 Meet the Press interview Vice President Biden publicly reversed his previous position, stating he was “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.” Source

Transgender Rights: “Joe Biden has said the struggle for transgender equality is the “civil rights issue of our time.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “One of the most contentious elements of Mr. Biden’s record is his involvement in the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act… But in discussing criminal justice at an event in January, he acknowledged, “I haven’t always been right.” Mr. Biden’s campaign website says he wants to “reform the criminal justice system,” and that he would work to “eliminate racial disparities at every stage” and “get rid of sentencing practices that don’t fit the crime.” Source


Cory Booker

LGBTQ Rights: “Booker is a strong, outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage and claimed New Jersey’s civil union law was not only bigoted, but also discriminated against New Jersey’s same-sex couples. … In November 2013, Booker co-sponsored and voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In January 2014, he co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act.” Source 

Marriage Equality: “Newark Mayor Cory Booker officiated the weddings of nine gay, lesbian, and straight couples in City Hall shortly after midnight. Booker announced, “It is officially past midnight. Marriage is equal in New Jersey.” Booker’s office organized the 12:01 a.m. ceremony after a trial-court judge ruled that same-sex couples could begin marrying in NJ on Oct. 21.” Source

Transgender Rights: “Deeply disappointed #SCOTUS decided to temporarily allow the DoD to implement Trump’s transgender military service ban. This policy is an affront to our values & hurts members of our military. This unjust ban should never be implemented & the courts should strike it down.” Source

Women’s Issues: “Feminism is the belief that women’s rights, beliefs, and opportunities should be equal to those of men. I consider myself a feminist because I believe women should be in charge of their future and choices — whether that be to focus on their career, their family, or whatever else they consider important. Let’s move forward and away from outdated beliefs.” Source

Disability Rights: “Our Social Security system provides crucial income security for many vulnerable Americans, but with an increase in applications and a growing backlog, millions are waiting for their critical lifesaving and earned benefits. Between FY16 and FY17, over 18,700 people died nationwide while waiting to receive a hearing date for their disability benefits. This is simply unacceptable and Americans deserve better.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “Booker played a pivotal role in the passage of one of the First Step Act, one of the Senate’s few bipartisan legislative success stories in 2018. The law implements measures designed to reduce recidivism and offers some protections against severe mandatory minimum sentences.” Source


Pete Buttigieg

LGBTQ Rights: “Buttigieg favors passing the Federal Equality Act, an amendment to existing civil rights legislation that would give federal non-discrimination protections to LBGTQ people.” Source

Marriage Equality: “I remind everybody that freedom to marry is a pretty important one that matters more for a lot of us in our lives than freedom from this or that obscure regulation.” Source

Transgender Rights: “He opposes the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. He also supports gender reassignment surgery for transgender people in prison.” Source

Equality Act: “When I ask if he would sign the Equality Act, Buttigieg says he would. When I ask if he would sign a lesser version of the bill that dropped trans protections as part of some bipartisan compromise — as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act’s congressional sponsors did back in 2007 with the Human Rights Campaign’s support — the mayor says that he would be “hard pressed” to do so and would likely only consider it if that’s what trans people wanted him to do.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “I consider criminal justice reform to be a key issue,” he says. “The cost of incarceration — and I’m not just saying the fiscal cost, but the social cost of incarceration — is tremendous. It’s clearly worsening some of the patterns of racial inequality in our country, too. I think more Americans than we realize agree on this issue. We just need more politicians to catch up.” Source


Julian Castro

LGBTQ Rights: “Castro has long supported same-sex marriage, serving as Grand Marshal of the 2009 San Antonio Gay Pride parade. In 2017, he tweeted that the military should allow Americans of all gender identities to serve in the military.” Source  “In 2011 [Castro] led a push to offer domestic partner benefits in [San Antonio], which passed on an 8-3 vote in the City Council.” Source

Marriage Equality: “In 2012, he joined mayors across the country in signing the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” petition for same-sex marriage equality.” Source

Transgender Rights:  As HUD Secretary under President Obama, “Castro…published guidance to ensure trans people aren’t turned away from homeless shelters, and led efforts to tackle LGBT+ housing discrimination.” Source 

Equal Rights:  Castro teamed with Sally Field to support Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance in 2015. Appearing in a political ad he said, “In Houston, 56 percent of discrimination reports filed in the last year were based on race, and 14 percent were based on gender or pregnancy. That’s why Houston needs Proposition 1, the Equal Rights Ordinance. It’s a local tool that helps protect everyone; regardless of race, religion, gender, military status and more.” Source 

Disability Rights:   “’Secretary Castro has been a champion of safe, accessible and affordable housing in the community for people with disabilities,’ said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. ‘We are thrilled to have Secretary Castro deliver the keynote address at the 2016 P&A/CAP Annual Conference.’”  Source 

Criminal Justice Reform:  “The color of your skin today affects whether you are treated equally and fairly in our criminal justice system…We’ve made strides over the years but we’re not nearly at a place where somebody who’s black is treated the same way as somebody who is white, or somebody who is poor is treated the same way as somebody who is rich when it comes to our criminal justice system.” Source  “If elected … I will create an office within the Department of Justice specifically dedicated to addressing discriminatory policing and strengthening the relationship between communities and law enforcement so that safety and justice are guaranteed to all people, no matter who you are, or where you come from.” Source 


John Delaney

LGBTQ Rights: “In Congress, he consistently voted to strengthen anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws.” Source

Women’s Rights: “It is time to acknowledge the simple fact that women’s rights are human rights, and we must use this approach as we address the pressing issues facing women today.” Delaney supports protecting the “fundamental rights” of women and ensuring that women are treated equally in American society. He also champions working to support women in the developing world. He believes that critical elements needed to accomplish this include healthcare, reproductive justice, workplace fairness, working to end domestic violence, and supporting international aid programs. Source

Equal Rights Amendment: “In June 2013 Delaney sponsored legislation which would remove the deadline for ratification of the ERA.” Source

Marriage Equality: Delaney “has been on record as a supporter of same-sex marriage since August 2012.” Source

Transgender Rights: “Delaney opposed Trump’s decision to ban transgender members in the military.” Source 

Disability Rights: Delaney introduced the “Medical Leave for Disabled Veterans Act, which significantly shortens the required period of employment for a disabled veteran to have access to medical leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “John Delaney on Thursday announced a 13-point proposal on criminal justice, including ending cash bail and increasing funding for body cameras and community policing, as part of a broader policy plan aimed at black America.” Source


Kirsten Gillibrand

LGBTQ Rights: “On gay rights, Gillibrand pushed to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”policy that required members of the military who identified as gay or lesbian to keep their sexual preferences secret. She supported same-sex marriage before it was legalized at the state level in New York. More recently, she opposed the Trump administration’s attempt to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military.” Source 

Marriage Equality: “On the morning of her appointment to the Senate, she called the Empire State Pride Agenda to reiterate her full support for same-sex marriage. Gillibrand also supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In April 2009, Gillibrand endorsed Governor Paterson’s proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.” Source 

Transgender Rights: “Gillibrand, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today led a bipartisan group of 50 Senators in a letter to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis opposing the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender service members and decrying the Secretary’s implementation recommendations for the ban.” Source 

Fighting Sexual Assault: “Throughout her career in the Senate, Gillibrand has been a crusader for survivors of sexual assault. In 2014 she worked on the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would increase resources and training for combating sexual assault on college campuses. She’s also fought for sexual assault reform in the military.” Source

Disability Rights: Gillibrand is a cosponsor of Sen. Schumer’s Disability Integration Act, “federal legislation intended to ensure that people with disabilities can live in the community rather than be forced into nursing facilities and other institutions.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: Gillibrand has proposed ending the federal cash bail system. “The junior senator from New York says the current system results in a disproportionate number of low-income people being locked up, even if they have not yet been convicted of a crime. The No Money Bail Act would encourage states to establish a pre-trial system based on the crime an individual is arrested for, or their prior criminal history.” Source


Kamala Harris

LGBTQ Rights: “While in office, Harris built up a strong history of supporting LGBTQ rights. She declined to defend the state’s ban on equal marriage rights, ordered all clerks to marry same-sex couples with “no exceptions” once the ban was lifted, co-sponsored a bill to do away with the “gay panic” as a defense in violent crimes, and and refused to entertain a ridiculous “Kill the Gays” ballot initiative intended to sentence people to death for “homosexual acts.” She was also fervently against North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom bill, and co-sponsored the Equality Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Source

Marriage Equality: “Attorney General Harris filed a brief with the Supreme Court in February [2013] that argued opponents of same-sex marriage had no legal standing to interfere with the rights of others.” After the SCOTUS decision, Harris called on the Ninth Circuit to lift their stay “because gay and lesbian couples in California have waited long enough for their full civil rights.” Source

Transgender Rights: Harris was one of three senators who led the charge to urge AG Jeff Sessions to restore the rights of transgender individuals to not be discriminated against in the workplace. Source

Women’s Issues: “It’s a woman’s issue to care about climate change. It’s a woman’s issue to want comprehensive immigration reform. It’s a woman’s issue to think about criminal justice reform (and) It’s a woman’s issue to care about reproductive healthcare and the affordable care act. It’s a woman’s issue to care about so many of these things. Women are not and should not be relegated to being a stereotype or a trope.” Source

Disability Rights: “People with disabilities in our nation should not have to be begging our government for access to basic, affordable medical services.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “In 2005, as San Francisco district attorney, Harris created Back on Track, a program aimed at preventing young, first-time, non-violent drug offenders from committing more crimes.” As CA attorney general, “she won praise for making state justice statistics publicly available, including arrest-related deaths. She launched a statewide police training program aimed at reducing unconscious racial bias among officers.” Source


John Hickenlooper

LGBTQ Rights: “Hickenlooper has long been a champion for LGBT rights. … Most famously, as governor, Hickenlooper called a special session of the legislature in 2012 after the Republican House speaker shut down debate on legislation that would have established civil unions in Colorado. After an election that ended Republican control of the state House, Hickenlooper signed the civil union legislation into law.” Source

Transgender Rights: “Most recently, he also vowed to protect transgender rights, a topic many politicians, even those who claim to support the LGBTQ community, shy away from. During Transgender Awareness Week, he referenced the 2008 law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and reflected on how far the community has come.” Source

Disability Rights: “Gov. Hickenlooper’s record as governor of Colorado shows his unwavering commitment to disability rights. As governor, he signed into law many bills that supported Coloradans with disabilities. Most notably, he committed the state to improving employment for people with disabilities.” Source

Death Penalty: “This was an issue that was front and center during his governorship. Hickenlooper said if he were elected president in 2020 he would suspend the death penalty across the country.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced a comprehensive review of Colorado’s juvenile justice system. … The task force furthers our efforts to keep youth out of the criminal justice system, bolster Two-Generation approaches, and get the best outcomes for Colorado youth.” Source


Jay Inslee

LGBTQ Rights & Marriage Equality: “Inslee is a proponent of LGBTQ rights and backed legalizing same-sex marriage in his state.” Source

Transgender Rights: In 2016, when North Caroling passed a law prohibiting schools from letting transgender students use restrooms that match their gender identity, Inslee banned non-essential state travel to that state. Source 

Banning Conversion Therapy: “A measure banning licensed therapists from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity was signed into law Wednesday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Inslee signed the bill joined by lawmakers and other LGTB supporters, including Democratic Sen. Marko Liias, the bill’s sponsor, and Chad Griffin, the president of the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.” Source 

Women’s Issues: “Inslee today appointed attorney Michelle Gonzalez to direct Washington’s new Women’s Commission, which will advise the governor, the Legislature and state agencies on issues important to women. … The nine-person Women’s Commission, created by the Legislature this year, aims to improve the well-being of women by identifying and developing policies to address critical issues affecting women, such as domestic violence, child care and support, sexual harassment, equal compensation, access to government services, and barriers for women of color.” Source 

Death Penalty: “During his first term as governor, he instituted a moratorium on the death penalty (the state’s supreme court struck down capital punishment last year).” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “In the realm of civil rights and justice reform, after the state legalized marijuana possession, Inslee launched the Marijuana Justice Initiative to pardon thousands of adults with single marijuana misdemeanor convictions.” Source


Amy Klobuchar

LGBTQ Rights: The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Klobuchar for Senate saying, “Throughout her career, Amy Klobuchar has been a leading advocate for equality in the U.S. Senate. Senator Klobuchar is fighting tirelessly on behalf of the LGBTQ community, Minnesota, and the American people.” Source

Marriage Equality: “America is a nation founded on equality for all people and today the Supreme Court took a major step toward advancing that equality. I was a cosponsor of the bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and the Court’s decision to strike it down is a true victory for those who have fought so hard for this day.” Source

Elder Abuse: Klobuchar was a lead sponsor of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which passed in 2017. Source

Equal Rights Amendment: Klobuchar was a co-sponsor of a resolution to remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Source

Disability Rights: “I helped lead the push in Congress to successfully pass bipartisan legislation called the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act — a law that will help people with disabilities and their families better plan for their futures. The reality is that people with disabilities and their families face many challenges, and their expenses can add up in a hurry.” Source

Human Trafficking: Klobuchar was a lead sponsor of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which passed in 2015. Source


Beto O’Rourke

LGBTQ Rights: “O’Rourke would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual preference, and give same-sex married couples access to all the benefits of heterosexual couples.” Source

Transgender Rights: “He opposes banning transgender people from the military.” Source

Disability Rights: “…they mention how Beto cosponsored a bill to end sub-minimum wage of people with disabilities (HR1377) and his No Vote on HR620 which dismantles the Americans with Disabilities Act. … It’s important to note that Beto is also a cosponsor of Disability Integration Act – DIADIA in the House (HR 2472). This bill would make it a Constitutional RIGHT for us to live in the community opposed to costly and inhumane institutions.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “He called for closing private and for-profit prisons, decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of people previously convicted of possessing it, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, and reforming the bail system so people charged with misdemeanors would not be incarcerated because of their inability to pay.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “O’Rourke backed eliminating the cash bail system, which he says punishes the poor disproportionately and creating “meaningful reentry” programs to reduce recidivism.” Source

Veterans’ Rights: O’Rourke was the lead sponsor of the Express Appeals Act (2017) which enacts “a pilot program to provide veterans the option of using an alternative appeals process to more quickly determine claims for disability compensation.” He was also the lead sponsor on legislation that required “the continuation of tuition assistance programs for members of the Armed Forces for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.” Source


Bernie Sanders

LGBTQ Rights: “On LGBTQ rights, Sanders has touted his early moves in support of the gay rights movement. In 1983, as mayor of Burlington, he approved a resolution declaring “Gay Rights Day;” in 1993, he opposed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; and in 2000 he supported gay civil unions in Vermont.” Source

Marriage Equality: “He was one of just 67 members in the House of Representatives to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, a politically tough decision he prides himself on and points to as a key progressive bona fide.” Source

Transgender Rights: “He opposes President Donald Trump’s push to ban transgender people from the military, and laws that would block transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice.” Source

Disability Rights: “In the year 2015, it is unacceptable that over 80 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed. People need work. They need jobs.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: Sanders was “an early critic of mass incarceration and punitive criminal justice policies.” Source


Eric Swalwell

LGBTQ Rights: “Since joining the House of Representatives in 2012, Eric Swalwell has worked to progress LGBTQ rights. … He is the cosponsor of a number of bills including the Equality Act, which would criminalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which aimed to end discrimination in public schools, and the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act, which would grant equal privileges to the same-sex spouse of a veteran.” Source

Transgender Rights: Swalwell cosponsored HRes124 which expresses opposition to banning service in the Armed Forces by openly transgender individuals. This resolution strongly opposes President Trump’s ban on transgender members of the Armed Forces. Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “Swalwell, a former prosecutor, has supported legislation in Congress that would prevent the Department of Justice from interfering in commercial marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the drug.” Source

Veterans’ Rights: “It is unacceptable that our veterans are wait so long for their benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made significant progress on its huge backlog of veterans’ benefits cases, in which delays at the Oakland Regional VA Office were among the worst in the nation. In the 113th Congress, I cosponsored bills intended to speed up the VA claims processing and increase its efficiency. I will continue to work to ensure that the few that proudly served our country receive the benefits and care they earned.” Source


Elizabeth Warren

LGBTQ Rights: “The senator, who began her second term this year, received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for her first term, which began in 2013. That reflects such positions as her cosponsorship of the Equality Act and other anti-discrimination bills, and her opposition to Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees … as well as other anti-LGBTQ Trump nominees.” Source

Marriage Equality:  “Warren’s outspokenness on LGBTQ rights continued. In the summer of 2015, she wrote a commentary piece for Time magazine praising the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality ruling. When looking at this equal marriage decision, Chief Justice John Roberts asserts that the Constitution ‘had nothing to do with it,’” she wrote. “He’s wrong. Our Constitution had everything to do with it — with the liberty of two adults to have their love treated the same as that of any other couple.” Source

Transgender Rights: She has spoken out against Trump’s actions to bar transgender troops from the military [Source] and in her first year as senator, made a speech to urge her fellow senators to pass the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) “which would have banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Source

Disability Rights: “First off, individuals with disabilities should have the opportunity to reach their full potential in competitive and integrated employment settings, and they should receive fair wages for their work. For these reasons, I have worked to end the subminimum wage, which makes it perfectly legal for an employer to pay a worker with a disability less than a worker without a disability for doing the same job.” Source

Criminal Justice Reform: “There have been studies showing that in exactly — exactly — the same crimes committed by blacks and whites, that blacks are more likely to be arrested, and blacks are more likely to be prosecuted. … That’s why we need significant criminal justice reform. … We should do it on a bipartisan basis. This should not be a partisan issue. This should be about making changes in the criminal justice system that we all need.” Source


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  1. Reblogged this on Bennet Kelley's Clippings & More and commented:
    Political Charge’s ongoing profiles – 2020 Candidates on Civil Rights.

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