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6 reasons why the US election is the most important in modern history when it comes to LGBT+ rights

Reiss Smith and Alex Goldsmith November 2, 2020
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With election day looming, the contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump when it comes to LGBT+ rights couldn’t be plainer.

Trump and Biden have vastly different records on LGBT+ rights. One has proven time and again that he’s willing to use the community as a pawn in his machinations, launching a terrifying slate of attacks on the trans community in particular while professing – baselessly – to be the “most pro-gay president” in history.

The other has a strong track record of fighting for equality, having evolved his position over years in office, culminating (so far) in his crucial support for advancing equal marriage and his role in repealing the homophobic Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation as vice president.

Though millions have already voted and Biden is ahead in national polls, nothing is certain as America prepares for election day on November 3. With that in mind, here are six simple reasons why this is the most important election in a generation in terms of LGBT+ rights.

1. The Trump administration has attacked the LGBT+ community more than 180 times.

It was in June of this year that the Trump administration reversed health protections afforded to transgender people under the Affordable Care Act. The announcement came during Pride month, on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse shooting that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.

This was just one of more than 180 attacks by Trump, his homophobic president Mike Pence and their administration against LGBT+ rights logged by GLAAD’s Trump Accountability Project.

2. Trump is a threat to LGBT+ rights around the globe, not just in the US.

As well as its many assaults on queer US citizens – including the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the withholding of funds from school districts that affirm trans students, and the introduction of rules enabling homeless shelters to be transphobic – the White House has also set its sights further afield, diminishing global LGBT+ rights.

Only recently, it was revealed that the administration has begun covering up homophobic torture and persecution in international human rights reports considered a “gold standard” of objective information about the state of human rights around the world. In the UK these reports are used by the Home Office to inform decisions about whether asylum seekers should be forcibly returned to their home countries.

3. His only major pro-LGBT+ policy was ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Though Trump has proclaimed himself “the most pro-gay president in history”, his only real claim to improving LGBT+ rights has been a much-vaulted campaign to decriminalise homosexuality around the world. In August, that campaign was revealed to be nothing more than “smoke and mirrors” by leading human rights activists.

4. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would undo Trump’s worst and fight for equality.

The actions of Trump and his administration is in stark contrast to those of his rivals, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

The Democrats have vowed to pass the Equality Act, with Biden calling it a ‘top legislative priority’ for his first 100 days in office. This vow is complemented by a host of policy pledges, including lifting Trump’s ban on transgender service members serving in the armed forces, banning conversion therapy, protecting LGBT+ youth and expanding access to healthcare.

5. Biden has come a long way.

Neither Biden nor Kamala Harris claim to hold a squeaky clean record on LGBT+ rights.

Earlier on during his lengthy career in politics, Biden voted against same-sex marriage and for the anti-gay military policy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). But, crucially, his position has evolved. Biden beat then-president Barack Obama in coming out swinging for marriage equality in 2012, helped repeal DADT in 2011, and is now a fervent supporter of queer rights.

As Chad Griffin, a political consultant and longtime gay rights leader, put it to the New York Times: “I do not think that anyone can define Joe Biden by a vote 25 years ago when he has literally spent more than a decade championing LGBTQ rights.”

6. So has his VP.

Harris has also addressed blemishes on her own LGBT+ record, namely a brief sent when she was California’s attorney general which sought to deny two trans inmates gender-affirming surgery.

“When that case came up, I had clients, and one of them was the California Department of Corrections,” she said at an event in September. “It was their policy. When I learned about what they were doing, behind the scenes, I got them to change the policy.” She was praised by Pose star and activist Angelica Ross, who commended Harris for “holding herself accountable”.

Now, Biden and Harris’ support for the LGBT+ community could’t be clearer. Both have consistently affirmed their belief in equal rights and have vowed to make America and the rest of world safer places to be queer.


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