Here's where the 2024 presidential candidates stand on LGBTQ+ issues

Many GOP candidates vow to restrict gender-affirming care for trans youth.

October 4, 2023, 2:46 PM

LGBTQ+ issues have become a flashpoint in the 2024 election, especially in the Republican primary for president.

Many of the GOP candidates have campaigned on restricting gender-affirming care, banning classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity and speaking out against transgender girls playing in women's sports.

Democrats President Joe Biden and Marianne Williamson have expressed more vocal support for LGBTQ+ issues, while Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has staked out a different position.

Here’s a brief look at where the major candidates stand on the issue.

Joe Biden

As president, Biden signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act, a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation to protect same sex and interracial marriages. He's also repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace, housing, health care and service industries.

Earlier this year, he directed the federal government to instruct states on ways to expand access to health care and suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ+ people in an effort "to stand up to the bullies targeting" the community.

Biden has long been outspoken on the issue of same-sex marriage and in 2012 famously preempted then-President Barack Obama in declaring his public support.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy's campaign faced blowback early on over his acceptance of an invitation to speak at a summit hosted by Moms for Liberty -- a group that pushes back against school curricula about LGBTQ issues and other matters, though the group has said its members are focused on pushing back on what they feel as parents is inappropriate content.

Kennedy later backed out of the event. Questioned about it, he said that he doesn't agree with anyone "who says that we shouldn't respect gay rights" and that he would do anything he can to make sure those rights are protected.

Kennedy has also been wary to support therapies for transgender minors, saying in July that he was distressed by some of the practices and that "puberty blocker drugs need to be looked into." Still, Kennedy said that it's important to respect people with different gender identities and that they "shouldn't ever be shamed."

Marianne Williamson

Williamson has vowed her administration would support both the Equality Act and the Equal Rights Amendment, the latter which would enshrine gender equality into the U.S.Constitution.

She's also pledged to appoint an attorney general who prioritizes prosecuting hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, restore cuts to HIV/AIDs programs, declare trans murder and suicide rates as a national emergency and other steps to protect the community.

PHOTO: Protesters march with signs in support of transgender and transgender youth rights march around the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Ala., March 2, 2021.
Protesters march with signs in support of transgender and transgender youth rights march around the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Ala., March 2, 2021.
Jake Crandall/ The Montgomery Advertiser via USA Today Networks, FILE

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, has been very vocal against transgender issues, repeating "I will keep men out of women's sports" in his stump speech at almost every rally. He's also said he will restore the ban on openly transgender people serving in the military that his previous administration had imposed -- and that he will sign a law to "stop" gender-affirming care for minors nationwide, equating such care to "mutilation."

Ron DeSantis

Although Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not given specifics about certain policies he would push surrounding the LGBTQ+ community if elected president, he has supported and signed a series of laws in Florida that many critics say harm the LGBTQ+ people. That includes the Parental Rights in Education bill -- dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics.

The law bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in many K-12 classrooms and states that any instruction on those topics cannot occur "in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards," according to the legislation. Supporters of the law argue it ensures students aren't exposed to content that they shouldn't be.

Nikki Haley

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has repeatedly said she believes trans women competing in girls' sports is "the women's issue of our time."

Earlier this year, the Republican was rebuked by LGBTQ+ advocates and experts when she linked transgender athletes to a rise in teen girls' suicide ideation.

"How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?" Haley said during a CNN town hall. "And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year. We should be growing strong girls, confident girls."

On gender-affirming care, Haley said children shouldn't be allowed to undergo procedures until they are 18.

Vivek Ramaswamy

One of Vivek Ramaswamy's main talking points is that there are only two genders and he often speaks about "the cult of gender ideology" and "transgenderism."

While the Republican says he supports the rights of adults "to do anything you want to as long as you're not hurting somebody else in the process" in pursuit of gender-affirming care, Ramaswamy maintains that children are not adults and therefore should not be able to undergo any surgical or chemical intervention or medical treatment.

Ramaswamy also believes "the federal government should stay out of" the codification of gay marriage.

Asked what the nuclear family looks like to him and whether gay couples fit into his idea of it, Ramaswamy has said, "I think that we've crossed a bridge in this country where having two parents in a committed relationship in the house is always better than the alternative, all else equal, right?"

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence has said he would sign a federal ban on gender-affirming surgeries for Americans under 18 and has vowed to block federal funds to hospitals and schools he says promote "radical gender ideology." As governor of Indiana, the Republican signed a religious freedom law which critics argued legalized discrimination in Indiana.

He also supported a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. He has called the collapse of the "traditional family" one of the greatest threats to the nation's future and outlined a "pro-family" plan that includes ending transgender care and expanding abortion restrictions.

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is opposed to state bans on care for transgender minors, framing the issue as a matter of parents' rights and separating himself from much of the Republican field, calling others who support such bans "big government conservatives."

"No one knows better than a mom and dad how to take care of their kids," Christie said in one radio interview.

He also told CNN that he would not ban transgender people from serving in the military.

Tim Scott

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican, voted against the Respect for Marriage Act.

He's said he wants to stop transgender people's participation in sports that match their gender identity and supports cutting funding from gender-affirming legislation, especially in schools.

Doug Burgum

As governor of North Dakota, Burgum, a Republican, leads the nation in laws that critics say target the LGBTQ+ community. He has restricted transgender students from participating in public elementary and secondary school sports despite noting that there had been no example of such incidents, and he vetoed a bill that would have banned the use of an individual's preferred pronouns in school.

However, Burgum believes what is right for North Dakota is specific to North Dakota and not the nation. He suggests that LGBTQ+ rights is a state issue and says he does not plan to carry these laws with him to the White House.

Asa Hutchinson

Hutchinson vetoed a law when he served as governor of Arkansas that would have banned all gender-affirming health care for minors in the state, calling it "government outreach."

Despite the law being found unconstitutional, he has faced some criticism from other conservatives for that veto, although he says he would support a federal ban on surgery for transgender minors.

As governor, Hutchinson did sign a law banning transgender women and girls from competing in school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Abby Cruz, Hannah Demissie, Fritz Farrow, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim, Nicholas Kerr, Will McDuffie, Kendall Ross and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.