Joe Biden releases his LGBTQ policy plan just in time to steal support from Bernie

Joe Biden releases his LGBTQ policy plan just in time to steal support from Bernie

Vice President Joe Biden addressing a Freedom To Marry event in New York. Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

Hard on the heels of his Super Tuesday surge, Joe Biden is out with his LGBTQ+ policy plan. At seventeen pages (two of which are about his record of support), it’s a detailed document that rivals—and echoes—the plans that former competitors Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren issued last October.

The plan falls into seven buckets.

  • Preventing discrimination
  • Supporting youth
  • Working to end violence
  • Expanding access to high-quality health care
  • Ensuring fair treatment in the criminal justice system
  • Collecting data to advance progress
  • Supporting global rights

Related: Will electability decide whether Biden or Bernie is the nominee? We asked our election analysts.

Within each bucket, the plan contains detailed policy proposals. Many of them are what you would expect—push for passage of the Equality Act, reinstate Obama-era orders banning discrimination by federal contractors, roll back President Trump’s ban on transgender military personnel, institute anti-bullying measures. In fact, there are a lot of mentions of returning to the policies of what the plan invariably calls the Obama-Biden administration.

The plan has new ideas too, of course. Biden promises workforce and training programs to help transgender and non-binary people. He advocates changing government documents to more accurately reflect gender identity. He calls for passage of legislation to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the plan is the call to collect accurate data. The government (present company excepted) relies on data to shape policy. Biden wants to ensure questions about sexual orientation and gender identity are included in national surveys, like the Census and the American Community Survey. He would direct agencies to collect demographic information for their own work, and he would work to address gaps in data collection and research around LGBTQ health.

All told, the plan resembles what the Obama administration would have done had it another term to implement policies. Of course, that’s Biden’s selling point to voters.

The plan is fairly practical, often relying on what the president can do without Congressional approval. It also underscores that the Democratic candidates were all pretty much promising the same policies if elected.

What is striking about the plan is the context in which it’s being released. The Democratic race is now down to just Biden and Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ policy plan is similar to Biden’s, with some Sanders-esque flourishes, like making it easier for LGBTQ workers to unionize.

Sanders is widely believed to have strong support from LGBTQ voters. An NBC News exit poll found that Sanders got 40 percent of the LGBTQ vote on Super Tuesday (although polling of LGBTQ people is not 100 percent reliable). But Biden’s unexpectedly strong showing on Super Tuesday has left Sanders trying to revamp his campaign strategy.

Biden is clearly hoping to wrap the nomination up in the next two weeks, and peeling support away from Sanders is one way to do it. If Biden can reassure LGBTQ voters that he’ll be looking out for their interests as much as Sanders, he may gain some of those votes. That would help build on his momentum as the (presumably) inevitable nominee.

It’s a smart strategy. We’ll find out in about two weeks how well it worked.


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