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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Releases Plan for LGBTQ Equality

“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” the Democratic presidential candidate says in offering his sixth major policy proposal.

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Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's supporters, including one holding a LGBTQ Pride flag, gather ahead of a rally in El Paso in March. Photo credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre / The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a proposal Wednesday morning to achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans and reinstate protections abandoned by President Donald Trump.

The plan — O’Rourke’s sixth major policy rollout — is heavy on executive actions he would pursue to support the LGBTQ community. It also prescribes legislation he would champion and steps that can be taken on the global stage.

“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” the former El Paso congressman said in a statement on the proposal, which comes amid LGBTQ Pride Month and arrived hours before he was set to lead a “Pride Run” in New York City.

Among the executive actions that O’Rourke would take: overturning Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing the “deploy or get out” policy that critics say discriminates against HIV-positive service members, and bringing back U.S. Education Department guidance that sought to protect LGBTQ students. O’Rourke would also act to crack down on conversion therapy, update blood donation requirements for LGBTQ people, increase LGBTQ representation in the census and install more pro-LGBTQ people in government, especially in the judiciary.

O’Rourke’s plan puts an emphasis on protecting transgender people — specifically transgender women of color — calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate crimes against them and making sure law enforcement agencies get the right training to respond. Dallas in particular has been roiled by a recent string of slayings involving transgender women of color.

When it comes to legislation, O’Rourke backs measures such as the Equality Act, a sweeping bill passed last month by the Democratic-led House that would overhaul the Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ Americans. O’Rourke also wants to make sure LGBTQ people have equal access to health care and insurance as part of any universal health care system that his administration would pursue in Congress.

And on the international front, O’Rourke proposes things like collaborating with allies to craft a global treaty through the International Law Commission of the United Nations that would shield LGBTQ people from persecution. O’Rourke also would create a “special envoy for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people” in the U.S. State Department.

Looking to stand out as his poll numbers remain low, O’Rourke has been producing policy papers at a steady rate. He previously released proposals on climate change, abortion rights, criminal justice, voting rights and immigration.

Immigration continues to be a focus in O’Rourke’s latest plan. His proposed executive actions include clarifying that LGBTQ people fleeing persecution are a “vulnerable population” that can use the U.S. asylum process.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders. Patrick logged countless miles on the 2016 campaign trail, covering the many Texas angles of the momentous presidential race. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Says Religious Institutions That Oppose Gay Marriage Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status

The Democratic presidential candidate gave an unequivocal answer Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights, drawing intense criticism from Republicans and religious groups.

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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is shown during a Sept. 28, 2019, appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position that sparked swift and fierce criticism from social conservatives.

The former El Paso congressman made the comment Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights. Anchor Don Lemon asked O’Rourke, “Do you think religious institutions — like colleges, churches, charities — should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”

“Yes,” O’Rourke replied without hesitating, drawing a round of applause. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us, and so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

In taking the stance, O’Rourke again staked out politically explosive territory with few allies in the primary field, much like his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons following the deadly El Paso shooting in August. He did not immediately back down from the position on tax-exempt status, tweeting his quote on the topic minutes after he was done at the town hall.

By Friday, GOP reaction had intensified, with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, issuing a statement denouncing O’Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”

“O’Rourke and some Democrats have declared war on churches,” Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said in a statement. “We say come and take it. This unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their Biblical beliefs on marriage must end and will be vigorously opposed. This is just another example of leftists that want to effectively ban the Bible and destroy our US Constitution.”

Calling O’Rourke’s position a “direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” the Plano-based First Liberty Institute said it was prepared to take legal action if O’Rourke or any future president sought to carry out the idea.

Earlier in the town hall, which was in Los Angeles, one of O’Rourke’s primary rivals, Cory Booker, did not go nearly as far in response to a similar question. Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, emphasized that there needs to be “consequences for discrimination” but repeatedly declined to say if he believed religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status over opposition to gay marriage.

O’Rourke released a plan for LGBTQ equality in June. Lemon cited it as he asked O’Rourke the question Thursday night, noting it said, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate.”

O’Rourke has previously targeted tax-exempt status for the National Rifle Association, calling for its revocation in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats that it served as a “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

Elizabeth Warren Hires Texas State Director

The Democratic presidential hopeful is the first non-Texan candidate to announce a hire in the state.

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Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has hired a Texas state director, the first such move by a non-Texan candidate in the primary.

The Warren campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that longtime Texas organizer Jenn Longoria will lead its efforts in the state, which holds its primary on Super Tuesday, or March 3. Longoria, a San Antonian who sits on the board of Battleground Texas, has extensive organizing experience in a range of races for everything from statewide office to city council.

Longoria has also worked for presidential campaigns, serving as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 run and as a full-time volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid.

Warren’s campaign is the second in the primary to announce a Texas state director. In early September, one of the candidates from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, named a Texas state director, Delilah Agho-Otoghile, as well as four other staffers dedicated to the state.

Some other campaigns have regional staffers, both based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on groups of states including Texas. For example, Pete Buttigieg has a regional organizing director, Michelle Hutchinson, who is based in Austin and oversees organizers working in Texas as well as other southwest states.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has risen in Texas primary polls as she has ascended nationally. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released early last month, Warren overtook O’Rourke for second place in the state, behind Joe Biden.

Warren has come to Texas four times this cycle, making her one of the more frequent visitors in the primary beyond O’Rourke and the other Texan in the race, Julían Castro. Her latest trip, which was in mid-September, featured an Austin rally where she was joined by Jessica Cisneros, the primary challenger to Laredo U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar who Warren had endorsed days earlier.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

Gina Ortiz Jones Raises $1 Million in Third Quarter

The Democrat is running for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, after narrowly losing to him last year.

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Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Gina Ortiz Jones, the leading Democratic candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, raised over $1 million in the third quarter, her campaign announced Tuesday morning.

The figure represents a massive haul that her campaign described as the “largest off-year quarterly fundraising total the district has ever seen.”

“I’m honored by the groundswell of support we’ve received and together we’re building a grassroots campaign to stand up to the corporate special interests and bring commonsense priorities like quality, affordable health care and lower prescription drug costs to Washington, D.C.,” Jones said in a statement.

Jones’ campaign expects to report having about $1.4 million cash on hand — a hefty stockpile for a race that is at the top of national Democrats’ priority list this cycle in Texas.

Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, is running for the seat being vacated by Hurd, who is retiring, after losing to him last year by a razor-thin margin. She is the frontrunner in a primary that includes a few other, lesser-known candidates.

Jones was one of the highest-raising Democratic congressional candidates in the country during the second quarter, and her campaign said she raked in over $100,000 in the 24 hours following Hurd’s early August announcement that he would not seek reelection.

In an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Thursday, Hurd said he is considering a presidential run in 2024.

The GOP primary for the seat is still forming, but it includes national Republicans like Tony Gonzales, a retired Navy cryptologist from San Antonio. He entered the race a few days after Hurd’s announcement and raised over $100,000 in his first month, according to his campaign.

The candidates are not required to report their third-quarter fundraising to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is working to flip six seats next year in Texas — and party leaders are already counting on Jones to put Hurd’s 23rd District in their column. In separate appearances Saturday at the Tribune Festival, DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos predicted Democrats will pick up the seat, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she has “no doubt Gina Ortiz Jones will win that seat.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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