How the 2016 Presidential Candidates Stack up for LGBT Women

Listen up, ladies: Maybe we have complicated feelings about being gay in America. Maybe we wonder how much of our rabid liberalism is a direct result of being a lesbian. Maybe we are Republicans and kinda support John Kasich for president and we feel like the only one. Maybe we do not give one rat’s ass about politics and only want to hole up in the woods with our cats and our sweetheart and pretend it’s after the zombie apocalypse and we’re the only survivors.

Regardless of whatever our feelings about politics might be, it’s one of those civic duty things to get out and vote for somebody. So here’s a round-up of things to know about each of the major candidates, so that you’re clear on where they all stand with women’s issues and LGBTQ politics.


Hillary ClintonDemocratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Holds New Hampshire Primary Night GatheringPhoto by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

How we think about Hillary’s stance on LGBT issues depends on whether we’re looking only at what she’s saying now, or how she’s voted, spoken and acted up until around 2013. In that year she made it clear that she wasn’t just against marriage equality because she thought it was the popular opinion to stand behind: she really truly felt uncomfortable with two ladies or two men marrying each other. She supported DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Now she is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and recognizes that there is so much more to the struggle than national marriage equality.

In terms of feminism, Hillary has long been the recipient of support from pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. During her time as a senator, she introduced eight bills aimed at protecting women’s right to healthcare. She was a consistent supporter of closing the gender pay gap, and she has supported many programs with the United Nations and other international groups to support women outside America. But many feminists argue that Hillary’s interventionist foreign policy and her support of drone warfare are harmful to women abroad, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the impact of war on women’s lives around the world.

Bernie SandersUS-VOTE-DEMOCRAT-SANDERSphoto via JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders makes much political hay over the fact that he supported marriage equality before Hillary, and it’s true that he did vote against DOMA in 1996. However, as Mark Joseph Stern noted over at Slate, he was mostly supporting state’s rights, not LGBT people’s rights. In 2006, he opposed marriage equality in Vermont, arguing instead for civil unions. He has come around since then, supporting the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling and co-sponsoring the senate bill that will come to define LGBT rights in the post-equality era.

On women’s issues and feminism in general, Bernie has a strong record. As a senator, he has consistently supported women’s health legislation, increased access to abortion and fought for equal pay. He has argued for extending family leave for parents of all genders. In one ill-fated article on his commitment to gender equality, he gave the world’s worst reason for supporting women’s issues: he is related to some women and he likes them. He has since said that his wording was insensitive, and otherwise he has a fairly spotless commitment to the big issues feminists care about.


Donald TrumpDonald Trump Holds New Hampshire Primary Night Gathering In ManchesterPhoto by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Okay, here’s where this whole enterprise gets dicey. On one hand, I want to be objective and impartial, so let me tell you that while Donald Trump has stated that he believes marriage should be between one man and one woman, he has also supported domestic partnership laws and has said that LGBT people’s lifestyles are of no interest to him. But on the other hand, I’m really not about giving the Donald a pass because he admits we might deserve some basic rights.

Donald Trump’s perspective on women has been much discussed this campaign season. From his long-running feud with Rosie O’Donnell to a more recent issue  with Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly to his public denouncement of business mogul Arianna Huffington as “ugly,” it is clear that Trump has no problem with maligning women. In terms of policy, Trump has argued to defund Planned Parenthood, restrict women’s access to abortion, and disagrees with legally mandated hiring quotas for women and racial minorities.

Ted CruzGOP Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Holds New Hampshire Primary Night GatheringPhoto by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

Ted Cruz may well be the most anti-LGBT candidate on the ballot this year. He has consistently opposed protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and he fought against legalizing gay marriage in Texas. In November 2015, he attended an Iowa rally lead by Kevin Swanson, the pastor who says that LGBT people, as well as Jews, Muslims and other minorities, should be killed. It’s safe to say that if you care about gay, lesbian, bi and trans existence, you should probably not be voting for Ted Cruz.

Unlike Trump, Cruz doesn’t seem to have a problem with powerful women, but he opposes abortion rights, and he voted to end the Violence Against Women Act.

Marco RubioPresidential Candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Holds NH Primary Night Party Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Marco Rubio has suggested that the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality was a gross misreading of the constitution and that, as President, one of his greatest objectives would be to appoint justices who would roll back progress on LGBT equality. He opposes gender and sexuality non-discrimination laws and has raised money for a Florida backer of conversion therapy. He even believes that LGBT people shouldn’t be able to adopt children.

Rubio’s focus on religious liberty (specifically for Christians) in his campaign has led to his appointing several figures to his advisory cabinet who have questionable records when it comes to feminism. Many of them subscribe to the idea of religious complementarianism, which means that men and women have specific roles in the eyes of God and that men are meant to lead and women are meant to be in the home. This old-timey and very anti-feminist perspective informs Rubio’s other platforms, which include a strong pro-life agenda and voting against equal pay laws. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, although he did say that he supported the law itself, just not some specific funding issues within it.

John KasichOhio Governor And GOP Presidential Candidate John Kasich Holds Primary Night Gathering In Concord, New HampshirePhoto by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

While Kasich is often regarded as a moderate candidate in the Republican Party, his voting record on LGBT issues is pretty conservative. He opposed giving benefits to people in same-sex partnerships and supported Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban. Still, he has opposed the religious freedom acts that pave the way to LGBT discrimination in other states, so I guess that’s good? 

Since 2011, Kasich signed 16 bills restricting women’s access to healthcare. One of those bills restricted rape crisis centers from giving women information on abortion providers. When asked about his views on the gender pay gap, Kasich suggested that women simply don’t have the same skills as men, so that’s super flattering. Ultimately, despite being hailed as a more centrist Republican, Kasich has a record of restricting women’s ability to make choices about their own bodies. 


Because there are so many Republican candidates going into the New Hampshire Primary this Tuesday, I have chosen to talk about the candidates who seem to be leading in most polls. Overall, though, it’s pretty clear that both Democratic candidates have a stronger record when it comes to protecting and celebrating folks like us. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t vote for Trump if he really does it for you, because hey, America, right?