Election 2020: Elizabeth Warren on LGBTQ rights

What has Elizabeth Warren done to support LGBTQ rights? What does she plan to do in the future? Does she do more than participate in pride parades? As we continue our foray into how the top democratic presidential candidates have addressed LGBTQ issues, this time we’ll take a look at Elizabeth Warren.

Overall, the Massachusetts senator and economics expert has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, particularly since her first campaign for senator in 2011. She’s known to be meticulous and academically-oriented, and it shows in her attention to policy that would affect our community. Unlike several other candidates, she has made specific and concrete policy goals to support LGBTQ rights. Perhaps due to her pragmatic and legal background, she’s focusing on laws that would specifically prevent LGBTQ discrimination.

Unsurprisingly, she supports the Equality Act, and was a major proponent for its predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Uniquely, she has also proposed a “refund equality tax” which would allow gay and lesbian couples married before 2013 to amend their tax returns and file as married for those years, if they wish. As it stands today, those couples were required to file as single, which sometimes meant they paid more taxes. This was not resolved during when gay marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015.

She’s also called for improvements in LGBTQ access to health care, including renouncing conversion therapy and banning discrimination in health care and blood donations.

First public statement in support of gay marriage: 2011 (and earlier)

Though Warren had demonstrated support of gay marriage in her actions for several years prior to 2011, she finally made a public statement on the issue during her Senate campaign in 2011. The next year, she also pushed president Obama to publicly support gay marriage.

Transgender rights

As the Department of Labor describes, transgender individuals are those who “anyone whose gender identity or expression does not conform to society’s expectations for, or stereotypes about, people assigned a particular sex.”1 Elizabeth Warren appears to be knowledgeable not only about the correct definition of transgender individuals (which is not true for all candidates), but is also aware of the most pressing issues for this community.

Like Biden, Warren has denounced Trump’s military ban, and spoke out against the violence of Black transgender women. She’s also spoken out against Trump’s efforts to erase federal benefits for transgender individuals. For example, in a tweet last October, she stated: “I want every single transgender child to know this: You are valued. You are equal. You are not alone – we are in this fight with you. Trans people #WontBeErased.”2

In 2016, she joined several other senators in calling for the Veterans Administration to lift the ban on gender affirmation surgeries for transgender veterans.

HRC support

The Human Rights Campaign and Elizabeth Warren have collaborated for a number of years. She has received their endorsement more than once, such as in her 2012 and 2018 senate runs. Additionally, she’s received a perfect score on their congressional equality index for the past 3 years.


During her 2012 senate campaign, Warren was asked whether individuals in prison should have access to gender confirmation surgery as part of their healthcare. Warren said she did not think it was a good way to spend public funding. Understandably, the transgender community was disappointed. Warren was silent on the issue for several years, until earlier this year, when she reversed her stance, stating that she “supports access to medically necessary services, including transition-related surgeries. This includes procedures taking place at the VA, in the military, or at correctional facilities.”3

As of now, this is the only misstep Warren has made when it comes to LGBT rights.

Closing thoughts:

Elizabeth Warren has shown herself to be a strong ally to our community. While some argue that her approach is not progressive enough, she has done a good job of following through on her promises, and listening to the LGBTQ community’s needs. She also has made an effort to be inclusive in her approach. For example, she wrote in 2017:

“I don’t want to march at Pride–I want to dance! And that’s what I do every year–dance! I dance with people young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight. … Pride shows our country at its best: diverse, inclusive, united, and strong. We’ll cheer the progress we’ve made toward building a more welcoming society for all, and we’ll recommit to protecting the rights of all Americans, so that everyone in this country is treated with dignity and respect–so everyone gets a chance to dance!” 4

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1. U.S. Department of Labor. DOL Policies on Gender Identity: Rights and Responsibilities. Accessed July 28, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/oasam/civil-rights-center/internal/policies/gender-identity

2. Warren, Elizabeth (2018, October 26) [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/SenWarren/status/1055953506966872064?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1055953506966872064&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthinkprogress.org%2Felizabeth-warren-transgender-prisoners-lgbtq-record-352c3b445bba%2F

3. Ford (2019). Elizabeth Warren addresses the one anti-LGBTQ blemish on her record. Think Progress. https://thinkprogress.org/elizabeth-warren-transgender-prisoners-lgbtq-record-352c3b445bba/

4. Warren, Elizabeth (2017). Senator Elizabeth Warren: Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community. Billboard. https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/7833712/senator-elizabeth-warren-gay-pride-month-love-letter

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