Jan 28, 2020

Exclusive: Bloomberg unveils LGBTQ equality plan

Bloomberg campaigns in Minneapolis on Jan. 23. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg is releasing his LGBTQ equality plan on Tuesday, aligning with other Democratic presidential candidates' calls to return to Obama-era protections that President Trump has moved to undo.

Why it matters: One aspect of the platform shared with Axios — calling for law enforcement training to protected transgender people of color — may have particular resonance given Bloomberg's past support of "stop and frisk" policing, which hindered his early standing with minority voters.

Details: Bloomberg supports a federal ban on conversion therapy and revoking federal funding for the practice, which is linked to homelessness, drug use and suicide for LGBTQ youth, per the Human Rights Campaign.

  • He "would not go so far" as revoking the tax-exempt statuses of colleges, churches, or charities that oppose same-sex marriage, a campaign spokesperson told Axios. Bloomberg does support the Do No Harm Act, which would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect minorities.
  • He believes that LGBTQ people fleeing violence from other countries based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be granted asylum in the U.S. and supports overturning laws that criminalize not disclosing HIV status to partners.
  • His plan does not detail a stance on cutting U.S. aid to countries that persecute gay people, including Saudi Arabia — something former Vice President Joe Biden has pledged to do.
  • He supports prosecuting the murder of transgender people as hate crimes and transgender people using restrooms that reflect their gender identity.

Between the lines: Bloomberg's plan calls for implicit bias training, transparency and oversight for law enforcement to tackle police profiling and misconduct against LGBTQ people, "especially trans people of color."

  • Bloomberg's "stop and frisk" policy when he was New York mayor, for which he apologized at an African American megachurch in November, led to more LGBTQ people being stopped in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 2012 than heterosexual people, the New York Times reported in 2013. Some transgender women, non-gender-conforming people and drag queens were arrested on suspicion of prostitution or stopped by police.
  • Brian Reich, a Bloomberg spokesperson, told Axios that Bloomberg's apology over the policy applies "across the board" including to LGBTQ people "to the extent that anyone was disproportionately targeted or unfairly scrutinized."

The big picture: Democrats have embedded LGBTQ inclusion in criminal justice reform and healthcare policies, as the Trump administration urges the Supreme Court to rule that employers can fire someone for being gay or transgender.

  • The first Democratic debate included the most prominent political discussion of transgender issues in a presidential race — and candidates keep bringing it up.
  • Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate to run a major presidential campaign, has shared his experiences as a gay man on the campaign trail — another 2020 first.
  • Biden has called transgender equality "the civil rights issue of our time."

What to watch: Bloomberg has a chance at taking the debate stage for the first time next month, thanks to a Democratic National Committee rule allowing candidates to qualify by gaining just one pledged delegate from the Iowa caucuses.

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Hong Kong legislature bans insults to Chinese national anthem

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Hong Kong’s legislature approved a bill Thursday that makes insulting the "March of the Volunteers," the Chinese national anthem, illegal, AP reports.

Why it matters: It did so on the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, when Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy activists in 1989. The death toll has never been released, but estimates vary between hundreds and thousands.