When I was a kid, I had little understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community. As an adult, I began to wake up, and by the 1980s, I had lunched with Christine Jorgensen, conducted my first communion service with a lesbian co-officiant, and discovered that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans folk had been part of my life all the time. When AIDS erupted, the indifference of the Reagan Administration angered me. But when members of my church told me they were HIV+ it became personal. I performed their weddings and sat with them in hospitals and conducted their funerals. I have marched for Marriage Equality for years in GR.
LGBTQIA+ issues (like race and religion and gender) are personal to me. So, I speak as a person, not just as a candidate: I really believe that ‘all people are created equal,’ and without asterisks. And I believe our laws must say that and meant it. For example:
1. Bullying. I know victims and survivors of targeted hate crimes. Rollbacks of policies that protect LGBTQIA+ youth in schools are clueless and cruel. State legislators ignored this when I went to press the case a decade ago. Now, the little progress made is being unmade. If elected, I will work hard to advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people in the Third District and beyond. It’s time for safer, more accepting communities, and our leaders need to set the example in lawmaking.
2. Healthcare. I remember physicians refusing to treat HIV, and others who did not believe their trans patients’ gender, treating them as mentally ill. Getting responsive and respectful healthcare should not be harder because one is female, trans, or gay. They don’t take less in taxes from them or charge them lower premiums, do they? I will continue to work for the end of discrimination, even if I am not elected to office. It’s what I’ve done for 40 years, both as a preacher and a social activist, and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon.
3. HIV/AIDS. Despite enormous strides, treatment for HIV is still inaccessible to many people — particularly people of color. In 2016, women of color were 83% of all women living with HIV in the United States.* Continued funding for research, and affordable accessible treatment is essential. The federal government alone can sustain funding to research, treat, and prevent, and we need representatives in Congress willing to stand up for this. If elected, I will stand up.
4. Discrimination. For years I was the only clergy person around who would perform same sex weddings because other religions would not. That may be inevitable, but religion never justifies discrimination in housing, employment, public services, and more. Freedom of religion cannot permit depriving someone else of their rights and liberties. In Congress, I will work to make sure the separation of Church and State is honored, and for people to be able to live proudly without the fear of discrimination.
5. Planned Parenthood. Lots of LGBTQIA+ folks depend on Planned Parenthood because they do not discriminate when it comes to reproductive healthcare, hormone therapy, affordable contraception, STI testing, and PrEP. If elected, I will work to make sure proper education about Planned Parenthood’s services is made accessible to the public, and I will advocate for more funding from the federal level for these vital programs.
These are issues my friends and family deal with. They are thus my issues. I will be vigilant in remedying them, for their sake and mine. As I fought for marriage equality for years, so I will stand up for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberties in Congress.
*Statistic provided by: http://www.thewellproject.org/hiv-information/why-race-matters-women-and-hiv