Mayor Pete column: A future where every LGBTQ+ Nevadan belongs

Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd in Nevada.

Special to the Spectrum

Last month, on National Coming Out Day, my husband Chasten marched in the Las Vegas Pride Parade with over one hundred boisterous Nevadans. Many of them shared with him their own stories of coming out, of experiencing the civil war in a person’s heart when they realize they are something they were brought up to reject. For so many LGBTQ+ people in America, we, too, are battle born.

A key reason I’m running for President is to ensure that every LGBTQ+ person—and every American—knows that they belong. Fortunately, Nevadans have led the way in ensuring that the 130,000 or so Nevadans that identify as LGBTQ+ have the freedom to be who they are, to love who they want, and to know that they belong.

In 2011, you banned discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment for LGBTQ people. In 2013, you passed a hate crime law that included protecting transgender Nevadans. You banned conversion therapy in 2017. This year, you banned the “gay panic” defense in court. And in 2020, you have the chance to enshrine marriage equality in the Nevada constitution. These steps were possible because of the work of community activists as well as five LGBTQ Nevada state legislators—including Senator David Parks, who will retire next year after 24 years of exceptional service.

But as we were reminded last month, when the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada was vandalized with a homophobic slur, the journey to belonging can be slow and full of setbacks. And such incidents have been on the rise over the past few years, in part to this administration’s support for institutionalized discrimination of LGBTQ+ people.

So when I’m president, we will begin dismantling this administration’s systematic discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and instead usher in a new era for LGBTQ+ equality.

We will push Congress to pass the Equality Act immediately, and I will sign it the moment it hits my desk. An LGBTQ person in Nevada can no longer be denied a job or prevented from taking their kids to day care—and that shouldn’t change simply because they crossed the border into Arizona or Idaho.

My administration will also immediately reverse the ban on transgender Americans serving in our military. When I served in Afghanistan, the people who got into my vehicle didn’t care if I was going home to a boyfriend or a girlfriend—and it shouldn’t matter if you’re transgender either. In the meantime, I support the Nevada National Guard continuing to allow transgender Americans to serve. My Administration will also support more equitable access to quality health care. Through our Medicare for All Who Want It plan, we will ensure that the disproportionately high number of LGBTQ+ Americans uninsured or underinsured have the care they need. That includes eliminating barriers to gender-affirming treatments, and providing comprehensive mental health and addiction care. And by taking steps like ensuring affordable access to PrEP, we can end the HIV/ AIDS epidemic once and for all by 2030.

It is a blessing that about 40 percent of LGBTQ+ Nevadans are raising children. Chasten and I hope to raise our own someday soon. Yet 23,000 young people each year still age out of foster care without ever being placed with a permanent family. My administration will prohibit federal dollars going to foster care and adoption agencies that discriminate. What’s more, we will work to pass the FAMILY Act so that parents get time off to care for a new child or sick loved one— regardless of gender—and broaden the definition of family to include chosen family.

Our justice system must also work better for our diverse LGBTQ+ communities. We must do more to enforce the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, while also promoting law enforcement and community policing strategies that protect and support LGBTQ+ Nevadans. That’s how we will honor the memories of Black trans women killed in recent years, including Paris Cameron, Bee Love Slater, and Muhlaysia Booker.

And as we recently marked the two-year anniversary of the October 1 massacre, we need common sense gun laws. As someone who carried a weapon of war in Afghanistan, I know that assault weapons have no business on the Strip, at a nightclub, or anywhere near a school.

Already, I have heard first-hand from so many Nevadans, from UAW members on strike to activists demanding affordable housing in Reno. I will carry the diverse voices of Nevada’s LGBTQ+ communities with me to the White House, knowing that there is no right or wrong way to be gay, or queer, or trans, knowing that together we can usher in a future where every American feels that this country has a place for them.