GoGuide Magazine’s “Guide to the Iowa Caucuses”

Interview with New Jersey Senator and Democratic

Presidential Candidate Cory Booker

November 1, 2019

By Tim Nedoba

GoGuide goes one-on-one with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker

Do you feel good about where you’re at this far out from the Iowa caucus? Are you all in for the Iowa Caucuses? I am incredibly confident with where we are at ahead of the Iowa Caucuses. We invested in organizing the Iowa way: we hired a team with deep Iowa ties and experience and got them on the ground early. They are now widely recognized as one of the best organizations in the state and we are executing our plan to organize, organize, organize and get hot at the end. We have earned more endorsements from Iowa elected officials and activists, including the Iowa Dems’ Stonewall Caucus Chair Kyla Paterson, than any other 2020 campaign. And now, thanks to a make-or-break fundraising push, we have the resources we need to keep growing our operation and secure our path to victory.

Are you actively seeking the LGBTQ vote in Iowa in preparation for the Caucus? The LGBTQ vote should be critical to anyone seeking the Democratic nomination for any office. Protecting and advancing the rights and interests of the LGBTQ community is central to who we are as Democrats. One of my favorite events of this campaign so far was when we stopped by Iowa Safe Schools’ summer camp to celebrate the youth participating in that groundbreaking program, and I was proud to participate in the LGBTQ Presidential Forum in Cedar Rapids just a few weeks ago. I will continue to raise issues of LGBTQ equality on the campaign trail and in debates because, as Dr. King says, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Why should the LGBTQ community support you in the Iowa Caucus for

President? I believe that, as candidates, we should be talking about both what we will do as president and what we have already done. This issue of equality, this issue of justice existed long before this race began.

I grew up with parents who talked to me openly and urgently about issues of justice in this nation. They let me know that the rights and privileges I enjoyed were fought for not just by Black Americans, but by the full rainbow of Americans who stood up for justice, and they expected that I would live the same way. So, when I began my professional career, I took on issues of housing discrimination. When I became Mayor of Newark, the first flag I raised was the American flag and the second flag I raised, for the first time in the history of my city, was the Pride flag. As mayor, I also had the power to officiate weddings, but I said I wouldn’t s until everyone had marriage equality. When I saw the violence against LGBTQ youth and staggering rates of LGBTQ youth homelessness in my city, I searched the country for models, brought in experts, and started to make safe spaces for those kids. In the Senate, I am a proud leading sponsor of the Equality Act and as a presidential candidate, I will not allow the disproportionate number of fatal violent incidents against transgender Black women to go ignored.

As your president and a lifelong ally on these issues, I will have a comprehensive agenda for the LGBTQ community on day one. This starts with building a team that is diverse and representative of the country we aim to serve. That includes an Attorney General who will fight to protect the rights and safety of LGBTQ Americans; and a Secretary of Education who actually taught in public schools and will stand up and protect every single one of our children, regardless of their gender identity or who they love. I will also repeal the despicable ban on transgender Americans serving in our military and bring about needed reforms to our veterans healthcare system.

But this is work that government cannot do alone. We all have an obligation to fight against the persistent injustices in our country, so that when we pledge allegiance to our flag and say the words “liberty and justice for all,” they are not aspirational, they are the truth and experience of the American people.

An important issue for the LGBTQ community is health care. How is your health care plan better than the other Democratic proposals? Health care is a human right, and we should be doing everything in our power to guarantee that right for every American. Second, health care isn’t just about treating illness, it’s about making sure that every American is mentally and physically taken care of so they can go to school, go to work, and contribute to their communities.

That is why I’m a co-sponsor of Medicare for All, which I believe is the best way to provide guaranteed, quality health care for every American. I am also the only member of the United States Senate who goes home to a low-income, inner city community, and I know that for my neighbors who are paying too much of their income for care or prescriptions – choosing to go without or rationing medication – they cannot wait for progress. On the path to Medicare for All, I’m going to act immediately, by doing things like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 55 years old. I would also roll back the Trump Administration’s efforts to strip access to healthcare and give license to discriminate against women and LGBTQ Americans, and will fully fund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides crucial reproductive care.

Another essential issue is gender identity. Is someone’s birth gender identity his or her permanent legal gender in your opinion? I believe that all Americans should have the freedom to live their lives authentically, and that their gender identities should be affirmed by the government – not erased. Official documentation that accurately reflects one’s gender identity is legally significant and can help protect the person from harassment and discrimination. If any American’s gender marker on legal documentation doesn’t match their gender, they should be able to update the document, plain and simple.

Is there something more you would like to add about your campaign for the Democratic nomination that’s not covered in any of the above questions? As a candidate running for president of the United States, I am blessed to have a platform to call attention that too often go overlooked. One of those issues is violence against transgender Americans. Already this year, at least 19 transgender Americans have been murdered–many of them trans women of color. It is a crisis. As I recently wrote in The Advocate:

And this crisis is a crisis of silence. Silence in school, at work, in our neighborhoods. It is the silence that happens when any act of discrimination or bigotry goes unchallenged.

Today, just like generations before us, we must speak out in a chorus of conviction and take urgent action.

We must start by undoing the damage the Trump administration has done, starting with reversing the immoral ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. That means a Department of Education that protects all of our children — no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. And that means a Department of Justice led by an attorney general who stands up against employment discrimination and prosecutes hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

But we cannot stop there.

We know that violence against the transgender community, and trans women of color in particular, is not new. According to the University of North Carolina, the life expectancy for the average trans woman of color is 35, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, 128 transgender people were killed over a five-year period between 2013 and 2018. The American Medical Association has rightly called this crisis an “epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color.”

We must strengthen laws so that survivors of hate crimes can access justice and heal, reform our policing practices so that all people are protected and feel safe seeking police assistance, and improve data collection so that our public policies accurately reflect the lives and meet the needs of transgender people.

We must pass the Equality Act into law — to ensure that all people are protected by federal nondiscrimination law enshrined in the Civil Rights Act.

And we must address the many other challenges that disproportionately impact transgender people — from closing disparities in employment and wages that undermine economic security to improving access to safe, affordable housing and removing barriers to quality, affordable health care.

We have so much work to do, but we cannot remain silent in the face of this crisis. Ralph Ellison once wrote, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” We must see the truth of this crisis. We must see our trans community. We must speak up. And we must act, from the White House to Congress, in every community and on every block.

Lives depend on it. GG

Senator Booker Biography

The first African American elected to the US Senate from New Jersey and only the fourth popularly elected Black Senator, Cory has helped pass landmark laws that turn the tide against mass incarceration and direct investment into vulnerable communities. He’s also been on the front line of efforts to reform the broken criminal justice system, increase wages and ensure hard work is fairly rewarded, expand economic opportunity and protect the rights of all Americans to breathe clean air and drink clean water. More information on Senator Booker can is available at corybooker.com/meet-cory. GG

GoGuide Commentary

Senator Booker has a strong understanding of the issues relevant to the LGBTQIA communities, friends, and allies and is worthy of our serious consideration for President. GG