By Sarah Mucha, CNN
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve LGBTQ equality in the United States, is endorsing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president.
“Joe Biden has been a staunch supporter of equality, and a supporter of LGBTQ issues for most of his political career,” HRC president Alphonso David told CNN in an interview. “He’s actually been quite instrumental in changing the public discourse on many issues, including marriage equality.”
The endorsement comes on the eighth anniversary of then-Vice President Biden’s endorsement of same-sex marriage in an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” an announcement that, at the time, caused considerable angst among aides to President Barack Obama, who had not yet supported same-sex marriage.
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women … are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction,” Biden said at the time.
The HRC board voted late Tuesday night and came to a unanimous decision to throw its support behind Biden.
“LGBTQ people will be treated with dignity and respect,” David told CNN of what it would mean to have Biden elected president. “Right now, under the Trump administration, we’re treated like second-class citizens. Better yet, the Trump administration is looking to erase us,” he said, citing as examples the Trump administration’s transgender military ban and its proposed rule to allow adoption and foster care agencies to receive federal grants, even if they choose to reject LGBTQ couples as potential parents for religious reasons.
As part of its endorsement, the HRC has also announced a plan to target seven battleground states in an effort to mobilize voters who prioritize LGBTQ equality issues to go to the polls come November. The organization has identified 3.4 million so-called “equality voters” across Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
At least 45 full-time staff in these seven states, combined with an additional 20 staff focused on a second tier of states and districts, will concentrate their attention on these voters who are at risk of not turning out. The organization has identified that of these 3.4 million at-risk voters, 60% are women, 48% are people of color, and 30% are under the age of 35.
“These folks hold the keys not only to this election but to the future,” David said.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, outreach will include a weekly phone bank in lieu of door-knocking, virtual voter training and the use of a new advocacy app called “Team,” which allows users to engage with its personal contacts on social media.
The Human Rights Campaign did not endorse a candidate in the primary, unlike in 2016, when the organization threw its support behind Hillary Clinton in January of that year. Alphonso cited a different political landscape in 2020 in explaining the decision to hold off this time.
“When Hillary Clinton ran, we didn’t have 20-x pro-equality candidates running for president,” David said.
In making its decision about who to endorse, the organization issued questionnaires to all pro-equality candidates in the primary in either January or February. “At this point, Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee, which means that we only needed to focus on his application and his record. And as we did that, we determined that May 6 was really the appropriate day to endorse him,” David told CNN, citing the date as both “symbolic” and “significant” for the LGBTQ community.
Biden is scheduled to hold an event in conjunction with the HRC later Wednesday evening.
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