By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke on Wednesday outlined his proposal to improve gay rights in the United States and to reverse what he called "discriminatory policies" under President Donald Trump.
"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, a former U.S. representative, said in a statement announcing the proposals.
Coinciding with June's designation as Gay Pride Month, O'Rourke joined other Democratic presidential candidates this month in calling for more federal action to protect gay rights. His announcement came on the third anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, when an Islamic State-inspired gunman killed 49 people.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, a monumental decision that altered the national legal status of gay couples across the country. Democrats have called for additional protections, including laws to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.
O'Rourke is one of more than 20 Democrats running for president, who have near universal agreement on gay rights protections.
His three-part proposal included a series of executive orders to reverse Trump policies: canceling the ban on transgender troops, reversing a policy that allowed federally funded adoption agencies to reject gay parents and ending current policies that greatly restrict gay men from donating blood. He also called for measures to protect transgender women from violence.
Among other examples, he promised to allow migrants seeking asylum to qualify as a "vulnerable population" if they are gay.
Second, he would work with Congress to pass legislation to end discrimination, including employment, housing and access to public services.
Finally, he would work to help improve gay rights abroad. His administration would establish an office within the State Department dedicated to gay rights and would seek a new international treaty to enshrine gay rights.
O'Rourke joined an annual two-mile jog known as the Pride Run in New York City on Wednesday morning.
Other Democratic candidates also marked the Pulse anniversary. In an email to supporters, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is gay, listed the victims' names and called for stricter gun limits and hate crime laws.
Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator, also used the occasion to call for "commonsense gun reform" and stronger protections for LGBTQ Americans in an email to backers.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler and Susan Thomas)