Julián Castro, Barack Obama’s former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a long-time LGBT+ ally, has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2020 US presidential election.
Castro, who oversaw the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017, announced his own presidential bid on January 12 in a speech in San Antonio, Texas.
The political hopeful drew on his Mexican-American family heritage in the speech, speaking about the experiences of immigrant families in America in a bid to set himself out from what is likely to be a crowded Democratic primary to select the party’s challenger to Donald Trump.
Julián Castro LGBT rights record as Mayor of San Antonio
Castro got his start in politics in San Antonio, a liberal city in the conservative state of Texas.
The political hopeful had served on the city council for four years before becoming Mayor of San Antonio in 2009.
Mayor Castro was an early advocate of LGBT+ rights, signing a city ordinance in 2013 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The law was a crucial lifeline to the LGBT+ community in San Antonio, as there are no federal or Texas-wide anti-discrimination protections for LGBT+ people.
Castro also extended domestic partner benefits to city employees in same-sex relationships, and used his platform to advocate for marriage equality, signing the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” petition in 2012.
When the Supreme Court struck down a federal anti-gay marriage law in 2013, Castro called for Texas to repeal its own anti-gay laws, adding: “Ending the official bigotry that Texas sanctions is both the right thing to do, and it is also good for business.”
Julián Castro was a strong supporter of San Antonio’s Pride parade across his time in office, becoming the first mayor of San Antonio to serve as the parade’s grand marshal in 2009.
Julián Castro LGBT rights record as Obama HUD Secretary
Castro gave up his position as mayor in 2014 after being appointed Barack Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The role placed Castro in charge of one of the federal government’s most influential departments, where he continued to advocate for LGBT+ rights, partnering with Cyndi Lauper’s charity True Colors to tackle homelessness among LGBT+ youth.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro said: “Every American should have access to decent, affordable housing. It’s a tragedy that so many LGBTQ youth are being mistreated simply because of who they are, making them particularly vulnerable to homelessness.
“Our partnership with the True Colors Fund and these two communities will help ensure that these young folks have a place to call home and an opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
Castro also published guidance to ensure trans people aren’t turned away from homeless shelters, and led efforts to tackle LGBT+ housing discrimination—though his Trump era successor Ben Carson appears to have gutted several of the resources.
Castro also spearheaded efforts to add questions gathering data about LGBT+ people to the US Census.
In 2016, the official penned a letter to the head of the US Census Bureau that said: “HUD’s mission is to give every person and family access to a safe, secure, and affordable home and ensure fair and equal access to housing for all Americans, regardless of their sexual and orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
“Valid, reliable, and nationally representative data on sexual gender identity are essential to HUD fulfilling its mission.”
Castro’s Census request was later overturned by the Trump administration.
Speaking at HRC’s 2016 Time To THRIVE Conference, Castro praised transgender teen Jazz Jennings as a “great example as an activist and entrepreneur.”
He also warned about a spate of anti-gay hate crimes, adding: “We won’t stand on the sidelines while members of the LGBT community continue to suffer injustice.
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“That’s because equality can’t wait. Civil rights can’t wait. Human rights can’t wait. Not in the United States of America.”
Julián Castro LGBT rights record: Current policies
Castro is yet to set out his official policy platform ahead of his presidential bid.
However, he has previously spoken out in support of the Equality Act, a proposed Democratic law to outlaw discrimination against LGBT+ people in all 50 states.
The bill would extend existing civil rights protections based on race and sex to also include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Castro said in 2015: “The Obama Administration proudly supports the Equality Act. Now it’s up to Congress to pass the bill.”
Versions of the bill and its predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, have been blocked by Republicans in Congress over several decades.
Castro has also criticised President Trump’s regressive policies on transgender rights.
The politician said on Twitter: “He campaigned on leaving transgender protections in place. A promise broken. Terrible for so many folks.
“Transgender individuals are human beings like the rest of us. They deserve equal respect & dignity, not scapegoating/fear mongering.”