From gun reform to abortion access, the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are weighing in on some of the country’s most contentious social issues.
Here’s where the seven candidates participating in the PBS Newshour/POLITICO Democratic debate stand.
As a Senator, Biden authored the Violence Against Women Act and led the charge to pass it. As vice president, Biden appointed the first White House advisor on Violence Against Women to prevent gender-based violence worldwide. On his campaign website, Biden outlines a plan to build on the Violence Against Women Act that includes increasing access to housing assistance for survivors, expanding requirements for education about sexual assault and dating violence, as well as cracking down on cyber harrassment.
On LGBTQ issues, Biden said in June that the Equality Act would be his top legislative priority. The proposed bill would protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in housing, workplace and public accommodations. In recent years, Biden has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights, though he has faced criticism for his history as a lawmaker, including voting in favor of Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing any same-sex marriage, and included other restrictions. He said at the time he believed the issue should be left up to states. By 2012, Biden’s stance had evolved, with him saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage.
Recently, Biden has been accused of making unwanted physical contact, such as hugs and kisses on the head, with women. In a video statement on Twitter, Biden agreed to be “more mindful” of women’s personal space in the future.
Buttigieg favors passing the Equality Act, an amendment to existing civil rights legislation that would give federal non-discrimination protections to LBGTQ people. He opposes the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. He also supports gender reassignment surgery for transgender people in prison. If elected, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay U.S. president.
Buttigieg says he would work to appoint Supreme Court judges who would safeguard the right to an abortion. He also supports expanding abortion access and repealing the Hyde Amendment, a bill that bans the use of federal funding for abortion services.
Buttigieg has struggled to make headway with black voters, with a recent poll showing him at 3 percent, compared to Biden, who is leading among black voters with 44 percent. Within the black community, he has been criticized for his handling of a police shooting in South Bend, Indiana, where he is the mayor.
In July, Buttigieg unveiled the “Douglass Plan” aimed at dismantling racist structures in the U.S. The plan proposes a number of changes, including increasing dedicated resources by $50 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. It also calls for eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for a number of criminal offenses, which disproportionately affects minority communities.
Klobuchar views abortion as a decision between a woman and her doctor. In 2006, Klobuchar said that “we need to start talking about common ground, and about reducing the number of abortions — making them safe and making them rare.” Klobuchar co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which prohibits states from setting restrictions on abortion.
When it comes to the LGBTQ community, Klobuchar has said discrimination is “bad for business.” In a 2013 report, Klobuchar detailed how LGBTQ discrimination doesn’t just hold moral implications, but can be damaging to the economy.
On gun control, Klobuchar has authored legislation to restrict convicted stalkers from purchasing firearms and expanding the definition of domestic abusers to include dating partners. She also supports universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and establishing a waiting period for gun sales.
Klobuchar’s plan to “combat hate” seeks to fight against domestic terrorism and “hate-motivated violence.” She also wants to strengthen enforcement of hate crimes. During the campaign, Klobuchar’s background as a county prosecutor in Minnesota has been criticized. Some argue she did not hold police accountable for officer-involved deaths or brutality.
Sanders supports abortion rights and voted against a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. His campaign calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion.
On pay equality, Sanders says he would push to adopt the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would prohibit employers from using pay history to determine future pay.
On LGBTQ rights, Sanders has touted his early moves in support of the gay rights movement. In 1983, as mayor of Burlington, he approved a resolution declaring “Gay Rights Day;” in 1993, he opposed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; and in 2000, he supported civil unions in Vermont. He opposes President Donald Trump’s push to ban transgender people from the military, and laws that would block transgender people from using bathrooms of their choice. His campaign platform expresses support for the Equality Act and providing comprehensive health care for members of the LGBTQ community.
The Sanders campaign has suggested proposals to address racial inequities. They include securing automatic voter registration for all U.S. citizens 18 and over, ending mandatory minimum sentences, and allocating more federal resources for distressed communities that have high levels of poverty.
Steyer is pro-choice, and vowed in 2017 that his NextGen America group would not “work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice.” He also supports codifying Roe v. Wade, as well as requiring private insurers to cover abortion and contraception.
Steyer’s affordable housing plan says that as president, he will invest $47 billion annually in the construction and renovation of affordable housing options. He also proposes increasing the Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocations by 50 percent over the next five years.
On gun violence, NextGen America partnered with Everytown For Gun Safety to organize a voter drive for high school students following the 2018 shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. “If [Trump] won’t enact the kind of reform necessary to protect our children, that’s just another reason he’s got to go,” Steyer said in a Facebook announcement at the time, calling for young voters to push for “gun reform now.”
His gun control platform calls for universal background checks, banning assault weapons and working with state governments to “establish high standards for concealed carry.”
Warren wants to invest $500 billion over 10 years for affordable housing options. This investment, she says, will create 3.2 million new housing units and bring down rental costs by 10 percent. Warren also supports gun control measures, vowing to immediately take executive action to reduce gun violence, including raising the minimum age for gun sales, expanding reporting requirements for gun sales, and requiring background checks.
On LGBTQ issues, Warren says her administration will make non-discrimination a condition of federal grants and increase investigations into LGBTQ discrimination. She also calls for making it easier for people to change the gender marker on their IDs and banning conversion therapy nationwide.
Warren’s platform outlines proposals to fight against discrimination in agriculture; this includes helping black farmers keep their land and holding the U.S. Department of Agriculture accountable for civil rights violations, Warren says on her website. “As president, I will establish an Equity Commission staffed by Black, Brown, and indigenous farmers, researchers, and activists to unearth the full range of USDA’s discrimination – and to develop real, long-term solutions that will last beyond my administration,” the site says.
Yang says he supports a woman’s right to choose, and would nominate judges who share the same opinion. His campaign also promotes a requirement for employers to offer a minimum of nine months paid family leave distributed between two parents, and at least six months for a single parent.
Yang would support legislation protecting people from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. He also would nominate LGBTQ individuals to serve in high-level jobs in his administration.
On immigration, Yang would create a new “a new tier of long-term permanent residency for anyone who has been here illegally for a substantial amount of time,” according to his website. He also wants to boost funding for U.S. ports of entry, improve technology to secure the southern border and strengthen environmental protections along the Rio Grande.
Yang seeks to address criminal justice reform by working with states to reduce reliance on cash bail, shifting drug policy to focus on treatment, and investing in businesses that hire former felons.
Correction: A previous version of this report misidentified Pete Buttigieg as the first openly gay major party presidential candidate. Fred Karger, who ran in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, was the first.