Ever since she came out as transgender, the internet has been wondering whether Caitlyn Jenner still identifies as a Republican. It’s not a very surprising question, considering some of the things conservatives have had to say about transgender people, and about Caitlyn Jenner in particular.
And while it's true that in general, Democrats tend to be more...well, progressive, when it comes to LGBT issues, we're still wondering -- do we even have a presidential candidate for 2016 on either side of the aisle who actively supports transgender rights?
So we did some digging and found out where each of the candidates stand.
According to Towleroad, in a speech at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, Huckabee “said that he wished he’d pretended to be transgender in high school so he could have ‘showered with the girls’ after PE," and compared “giving civil rights to transgender persons with pedophilia and sexual impropriety.” When he was asked to respond to Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover, he answered, "Not going there."
Although she's been criticized for being slow to come around on marriage equality, when Hillary was Secretary of State, she worked to make it easier for transgender people to update their gender on their passports. “It was part of the overall effort to try to treat people with dignity and equality,” she said. “I had the opportunity through executive action to recognize that there were barriers and vestiges to discrimination that had no place in a modern American workplace, and so I acted.”
When asked whether he supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, Rubio said, “I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.” The Washington Post pointed out ENDA wouldn't give transgender people "special" protection -- just the same protections that are already covered by law on the basis of gender and race.
Sanders has a score of 100% on Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Congressional Equality Index and has spoken in support of transgender workers' rights. He has tweeted, “Every Republican candidate for president is against gay marriage. I have supported same-sex marriage from the beginning and voted against Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act. You can’t claim to support equality and not support equal rights.”
Graham was one of only ten Republican senators who voted in favor of ENDA, but he opposes marriage equality and voted not to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act after it was updated to include protections for LGBT victims of violence. His HRC Congressional Equality Index score is 0%.
Pataki is the only Republican candidate who supports marriage equality, but he hasn’t had much to say on LGBT issues. "Defeating Islamic terrorists, shrinking government, growing the economy — these are the issues that matter most," he said. "Instead we're debating social issues like abortion and gay rights." He said that’s a "distraction."
When Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed asked Rick Santorum for his thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner, he said, “You know, if he says he's a woman, then he's a woman. Look, this is an issue — my responsibility as a human being is to love and accept everybody. Not to criticize people for who they are. I can criticize, and I do, for what people do, for their behavior. But as far as for who they are, you have to respect everybody...”
That said, Santorum is opposed to marriage equality, voted no on ENDA, and has compared LGBT relationships to bestiality and pedophilia. When speaking to BuzzFeed, he clarified that although he might have love for Jenner, he wasn’t making any kind of statement about transgender rights: “I don’t think the federal government should get into the whole issue of bathrooms. I think those are things that the business community and local organizations should deal with.”
Carson has never specifically addressed transgender rights, but he is opposed to marriage equality. He has also asserted that being gay is a “absolutely” a choice “because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they’re gay.” (He later “apologized” for that statement) and compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia. He has also acted as a keynote speaker at more than one anti-LGBT hate group event.
Fiorina is opposed to marriage equality, supported Prop 8 (which temporarily banned same-sex marriage in California) and didn’t think it should be overturned, and opposed ENDA. She has also defended Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law.
According to HRC, “On the same day he claimed to have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against discrimination, [Rand Paul] voted against ENDA, which would explicitly protect LGBT workers from workplace discrimination. Paul even skipped a committee hearing on his own amendment to ENDA.” HRC also reports that Paul has suggested that marriage equality would lead to people marrying non-human objects.
Cruz voted against ENDA and two local ordinances in Texas that would have protected LGBT Americans. He has said that homosexuality is a choice, and criticized other Republicans for being LGBT allies. He once said, “When a mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement - and it’s not a statement I agree with.”
O’Malley is the newest Democrat to join the presidential race. He supports marriage equality, and, according to attn.com, “In 2014, Martin O'Malley signed a law banning discrimination against transgender Marylanders, joining D.C. and 17 other states with laws protecting the transgender community from discrimination.”