- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand has cavorted with drag queens at an Iowa gay bar and sells gay pride merchandise on her presidential campaign website.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s campaign website sells rainbow-themed T-shirts, tank tops and buttons for Pride Month. His sales pitch includes a video on Twitter in which an animated depiction of Mr. Biden dons rainbow-tinted aviator sunglasses.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay presidential contender, has made Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian who is despised by gay rights activists, a foil for his candidacy.

In a Washington Post interview, Mr. Buttigieg said he had a message for the “Mike Pences of the world.”

“If you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my Creator,” he said.

The crowded field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates is aggressively courting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, seeking a boost from the politically powerful constituency that is energized by fierce opposition to President Trump.

The number of people identifying themselves as LGBTQ is growing. A record 4.5% of American adults — that’s about 11 million voters — identified as LGBTQ in Gallup’s most recent estimate.

The number was up from 4.1% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2012, the year Gallup first started tracking LGBT identification.

And the LGBTQ activists’ political punch has repercussions far beyond the gay and queer community. Their cause is embraced by progressive activist groups and liberal voters in general.

“Getting support from activists in this group would go a long way in getting hardworking volunteers and leaders involved in helping their campaign,” said Bret Nilles, chair of the Democratic Party in Linn County, one of the Iowa counties where LGBTQ activists are active and engaged in the party.

Gay rights groups such as One Iowa, Indivisible and Stonewall play prominent roles in party politics in Linn County and across Iowa.

In 2016, Mr. Trump made a concerted effort to appeal to LGBTQ voters, promising to protect them from anti-gay Islamic terrorists.

The message fell flat. He received just 14% of the LGBTQ vote in 2016, the lowest tally for a Republican presidential nominee since exit polls began measuring the LGBTQ vote in 1992.

Their animosity toward Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence has only intensified in the little more than two years they have been in office.

For his part, Mr. Trump keeps stoking the anger of LGBTQ voters and giving more ammunition to the Democrats.

Days away from the start of Pride Month, the Trump administration moved to roll back two protections for transgender people against discrimination in receiving medical care and in access to homeless shelters.

The candidates quickly joined civil rights and LGBTQ advocacy groups in calling foul.

“Trans rights are human rights,” tweeted Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, responding to the move Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services to nix an Obama-era health care rule that extended laws barring discrimination on the basis of sex to include gender identity.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, another Democratic hopeful, accused Mr. Trump of making “a despicable attempt to delegitimize the identity of trans people, and deliberately place their health and well-being in danger.”

Sens. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and Kamala D. Harris of California repeatedly have emphasized their support for LGBTQ causes, including giving separate speeches at this year’s annual gala for the Human Rights Campaign, the nations largest civil rights group LGBTQ people.

“Demigods in the White House and the administration are working systematically to undermine and dismantle LGBTQ rights — from President Trump’s discriminatory and un-American ban on transgender Americans serving on the military to the Department of Justice’s refusal to protect LGBTQ Americans from employment discrimination to [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos’ failure to protect our transgender students,” Mr. Booker said at the April gala in Los Angeles.

Last week, Mr. Booker took aim at the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule that would allow men’s and women’s homeless shelters to house people based on their biological sex rather than their gender identity.

“It’s cruel, inhumane, and could be fatal. We’re better than this. Everyone deserves a safe place to lay their head,” he tweeted.

Adding to the backlash, Axios reported that the administration planned to make it easier for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples.

“This is unconstitutional, un-American, and must be stopped. Period,” Ms. Harris said.

The administration says the move will reduce paperwork and save $3.6 billion in “unnecessary regulatory costs” over five years.

The administration defended the rollback of the health care and shelter rules by saying the move adhered to the laws and would not lead to mistreatment of transgender people.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” Roger Severino, director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, said of the health care rule. “The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives.”

Mr. Severino said the money saved on English-only paperwork could be used to provide access for translators and interpreters for non-English speakers.

“As a child of Hispanic immigrants, I know how vitally important it is that people receive quality health care services regardless of the language they speak, and this proposal grants providers the needed flexibility for achieving that goal,” he said.

Tom Howell Jr. and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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