The Story of North Carolina Belongs to All of Us

Op-Ed

This year marks 50 years since the first Pride parade. And as we look back, we are reminded of the unstoppable spirit of the LGBTQ+ community that marched on, even in the face of adversity. As our country faces unprecedented challenges, we could use a drop of that same tenacity. This past Pride Month, I recommitted myself to continuing efforts to ensure equal treatment for all those who call our state, and country, home — no matter who they love.

Earlier this summer, we saw great progress for our nation, but also a reminder that we can’t let our foot off the gas when it comes to pursuing protections for our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors.

In June, the Trump Administration finalized its shameful rule to strip away health care protections for transgender Americans put forth under the Affordable Care Act. By rolling back protections that made it illegal to deny someone care based on their gender identity, health insurers will be allowed to deny insurance, or even needed medical care and procedures, to transgender individuals.

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This is wrong under normal circumstances, but taking away health care protections during a global pandemic is downright cruel. In the Senate, I will defend the protections in the Affordable Care Act and expand healthcare to more Americans.

North Carolina is also one of 14 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid, which is the single largest provider of health coverage for those living with HIV. It’s past time we expand Medicaid and fund additional HIV/AIDS research.

We also received good news in June, when the Supreme Court ruled the LGBTQ+ community is protected from workplace discrimination. This is a monumental victory and one worth celebrating, but we must keep the tide rolling as we continue to fight for equal rights for all.

The SCOTUS decision should extend to those who serve. After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, I volunteered to join the Army Reserves. As a veteran, I find the Administration’s ban against transgender people serving in the military unpatriotic and wrong, and I support Senate efforts to codify protections for trans military members into law in the next Defense Authorization.

Together, we spoke out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies until they were repealed. We fought opponents of marriage equality until the Supreme Court stepped in. We can, and must, keep up the fight.

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I am proud to have called North Carolina home my entire life, and I know our state’s story is still being written, and this next chapter must include everyone — no matter who they are or who they love. That’s why my wife, Elizabeth, and I were among the first voices in 2012 to speak out against North Carolina’s Amendment One.

You can count on me to bring a commitment to equality and equal treatment under the law for all North Carolinians to the United States Senate.

In the U.S. Senate, I’ll fight discrimination everywhere it exists. We ought to pass the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ+ North Carolinians from discrimination in housing and the workplace. I support efforts to ban discrimination in public accommodations like restaurants, businesses and bathrooms.

I’ll also fight for the safety of LGBTQ+ youth. A person’s safety and quality of life should not be conditioned upon who they love or how they identify. I’ll work to undo harmful policies that prevent the safety and wellbeing of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

I am committed to fighting discrimination everywhere it exists and I vow to support and defend the rights of LGBTQ+ North Carolinians as our state’s next U.S. senator, because North Carolina belongs to all of us. As we celebrate 50 years of Pride, let us reaffirm our commitment to equality for all North Carolinians.

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