July 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm PDT | by Chris Johnson
Who will Biden pick for VP? 9 choices and their LGBTQ backgrounds

As the 2020 presidential campaign continues to heat up, Joseph Biden is expected to soon name his choice for a vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket. Biden has committed to naming a woman and is looking strongly at women of color amid a national awakening on racial justice after the killing of George Floyd.

Here’s a roundup of possible choices and a snapshot of their backgrounds on LGBTQ issues:

Susan Rice

Susan Rice (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 2009-2013; National Security Adviser, 2013-2017

LGBTQ record: Rice promoted LGBTQ human rights issues as a component of U.S. foreign policy as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, then national security adviser under President Obama. When Uganda was debating a “Kill the Gays” bill, Rice called leadership to get them to abandon the initiative and denounced the anti-gay comments from the president of Gambia. Rice also spoke out in an interview with the Washington Blade after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, which led to the deaths of 49 patrons in the establishment.

Notable quote: “This is a jolt. What we are seeing sadly more recently is an infusion of hate-filled rhetoric into public discourse and a greater degree of attention being paid to it and then in some people’s mind it becomes more acceptable.” — Rice to the Blade in 2016 on the Pulse shooting

Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: Wisconsin state Assembly member, 1993-1999; U.S. House member, 1999-2013; U.S. senator, 2013-present

LGBTQ record: What hasn’t she done? In 1998, Baldwin became the first out lesbian elected to Congress, then became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate in 2012. Baldwin has been a consistent leader on LGBTQ rights, pushing for a transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the federal protections against anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. After her election to the Senate, Baldwin became a leader on the Equality Act, which would comprehensively ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination under civil rights law. Baldwin has also taken the lead on lower-profile issues, such as ending the ban on gay blood donations.

Notable quote: “We don’t want to just live in a country where our rights our respected under the law, we want to live in a country where we are respected for who we are, where we enjoy the freedom and opportunity not because the Supreme Court gave us permission, but because we’re Americans, and that’s all there is to it.” — Baldwin at DOJ Pride celebration in 2013

Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 2006-2009; U.S. House member 2013-2017; U.S. senator, 2017-present

LGBTQ record: Tammy Baldwin isn’t the only Tammy said to be under consideration for the VP slot. Elected to the House in 2012 and the Senate in 2016, Duckworth is a combat veteran of the Iraq war, the first Thai American woman elected to Congress, the first female double amputee in the Senate, and the first senator to give birth while in office. A favorite among progressive veterans, Duckworth has spoken out against President Trump’s ban on transgender service members and recommended the nomination of lesbian U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland. She is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Notable quote: “When I found myself sitting in that field, where we landed a couple hundred yards from where the bad guys were jumping in pickup trucks and headed toward us, and I was bleeding out in that aircraft, I didn’t care if the guys risking their lives to save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female. All that mattered was they had an American flag on their shoulder and they did not leave me behind.” — Duckworth at DOD Pride event in 2019

Karen Bass

Notable offices held: California Assembly member, 2004-2010; U.S. House member, 2011-present

LGBTQ record: The current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Bass has a long history of activism going back to her work as a community organizer in Los Angeles during the 1980s, which included a firsthand experience with the devastation of HIV/AIDS at the peak of the epidemic. In her time in the California Assembly, Bass joined with leaders in the legislature to pass marriage equality legislation before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bass has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, has supported the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination and is considered the likely successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Notable quotable: “I went through the AIDS crisis from its very beginning. I watched all of Santa Monica Boulevard get wiped out near Vermont (Ave.). That whole area there. I watched everybody die within a matter of two years.” — Bass to the Los Angeles Blade in March

Val Demings

Notable offices held: Chief of the Orlando Police Department, 2007-2011; U.S. House member, 2017-present

LGBTQ record: Demings is relatively new to the national stage as a two-term member of the House, but has spoken out on LGBTQ issues. A former chief of police in Orlando, Fla., Demings drew on that experience to condemn anti-trans violence in an op-ed for The Hill newspaper, saying “an epidemic of anti-transgender violent crime is going unaddressed.” Demings also supports the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Notable quote: “Political attacks and hate crimes against LGBTQ people are increasing right along with the divisive and hateful rhetoric. No place feels this more deeply than Orlando, where in 2016, 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub. The shooting was the deadliest attack against the LGBTQ community in modern American history and remains one of the worst our country has ever experienced.” — Demings in a 2018 op-ed for The Hill

Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: California attorney general, 2011-2017; U.S. senator, 2017-present

LGBTQ record: Since becoming a U.S. senator, Harris has resisted efforts to keep U.S. citizens from identifying themselves as LGBTQ in the 2020 Census; urged investigations into the death of transgender immigrant Roxsana Hernández, who died after being held in ICE detention; and called on the Justice Department to stop excluding transgender people from its enforcement of Title VII. But Harris also championed LGBTQ issues as California attorney general, declining to defend Prop 8 and marrying the first same-sex couple in California after courts struck it down. Critics, however, have taken issue with her defending California in refusing transgender surgery for prison inmates.

Notable quote: “I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were, so there wasn’t a moment where it was like, ‘OK, now let’s let this person in.’ Everyone was a part of everything. It was about community. It was about coalition building. It was about equality, inclusion. I mean, I had an uncle who was gay. [But] there was no epiphany” about gay people. — Harris to the Los Angeles Blade in 2018

Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Notable offices held: Special adviser for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2010-2011; U.S. senator, 2013-present

LGBTQ record: Warren sought to advance LGBTQ rights even before she took office as a U.S. senator, telling the Washington Blade she wanted to see former President Barack Obama support same-sex marriage, as his then-stated evolution continued. (Obama would come out for marriage equality months later.) In the Senate, Warren has introduced the Refund Equality Act, which would give gay couples a refund on back taxes they would have owed if not for DOMA. As a 2020 candidate, Warren said she’d read aloud as president the names of transgender people killed each year in the White House Rose Garden.

Notable quotable: “I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right; marriage equality is morally right.” — Warren in Washington Blade interview in 2012

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Notable offices held: Atlanta City Council, 2010-2018; Atlanta mayor, 2018-present

LGBTQ record: As mayor of Atlanta, Bottoms passed a resolution in 2019 calling on the state of Georgia to ban widely discredited conversion therapy. Earlier this year, Bottoms issued the city’s first Biennial Report of LGBTQ Affairs, which highlights pro-LGBTQ policies, programs and initiatives under her administration of the city. Among the achievements cited in the report are the appointment of the first-ever city official on LGBTQ Affairs; the establishment of a diverse Mayoral LGBTQ Advisory Board; expanding access to PrEP; and bolstering financial support of local grassroots organizations to provide needed social services for LGBTQ people, such as housing for transgender people.

Notable quote: “Atlanta’s LGBTQ community has long been an active contributor to the vibrancy of our city, and as mayor, I will ensure the city continues to balance the scale and take a more active role in contributing to the wellness of our LGBTQ residents and neighbors.” — Bottoms in statement on first-ever LGBTQ report

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Notable offices held: Secretary of Health of New Mexico, 2004-2007; U.S. House member, 2013-2019; New Mexico governor, 2019-present

LGBTQ record: As New Mexico governor, Grisham signed a measure codifying into law same-sex marriage, which the state had as a result of a judicial decision in 2013, as well as legislation designating single-occupancy restrooms as gender neutral. Grisham has repeatedly expressed a commitment to LGBTQ rights and co-sponsored the Equality Act before she left Congress. Grisham faced a complaint from a former transgender intern who spoke out during the “Me Too” movement to allege discrimination in the congresswoman’s office, although a spokesperson vehemently denied discrimination.

Notable quote: “I was an early advocate for the Hate Crimes Act and spearheaded efforts to recognize same-sex partners as legally qualified to make medical and healthcare decisions for their partners. New Mexico was the first state to include the provision in state law.” — Lujan-Grisham in 2012, according to her House campaign website.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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