(CN) – Promising to undo what he calls an assault on LGBTQ rights under the Trump administration, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke rolled out a new plan Wednesday to strengthen federal protections for gay and transgender people that calls for the reversal of several Trump policies, including the transgender troop ban.
O’Rourke leans heavily on executive actions to fulfill the bulk of his latest policy proposal, his sixth as a presidential candidate, but also relies on Congress to pass through legislation like the Equality Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law.
“LGBTQ+ Americans have made incredible progress over the past decade, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of activists and advocates – but too many LGBTQ+ people still lack protection under many states’ laws and the current administration is encouraging rather than stamping out discrimination,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” he added.
O’Rourke, a former El Paso city councilman who helped pass the city’s first non-discrimination ordinance, made his plan public Wednesday morning just before holding a two-mile Pride Run in New York. Its release also coincides with June’s Gay Pride celebrations, which marks 50 years after the riot at the Stonewall Inn and four years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
In addition to ending the Trump administration’s restrictions on transgender and HIV-positive military members, executive actions would be taken under O’Rourke’s plan to reinstate Department of Education guidelines to protect LGBTQ students, end efforts to allow federally funded adoption and foster care agencies to reject same-sex families, and ensure that gay people have equal access to health care, including hormone and other gender-affirming treatments and HIV prevent and medications.
O’Rourke also says he would direct the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate crimes against transgender people, specifically transgender people of color.
The Human Rights Campaign said at least 26 deaths of transgender people were reported in 2018, the majority of whom were black transgender women, a demographic that has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. Eight transgender deaths have been reported so far this year.
In O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, a 25-year-old transgender woman from El Salvador died June 1 while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Johana Medina Leon’s exact cause of death is unknown but reports indicate she tested positive for HIV and died at the Del Sol Medical Center after reporting chest pains.
The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are between 15,000 and 50,000 undocumented transgender immigrants living in the U.S.
In addition to pledging to appoint openly gay judges and cabinet-level officials if elected president, O’Rourke proposed reforms to the U.S. asylum and immigration system to improve the process for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence.
The Texas Democrat has also released detailed plans to address climate change, voting rights, immigration, criminal justice and abortion rights.
The latest Morning Consult poll places him at 4% nationally, just below U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who stand at 7%, in the field of 23 Democratic candidates.