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The Colorado Democratic primary is fast-approaching on March 3. With so many candidates to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many voters are simply choosing not to participate in the primary and vote for whoever the democrats nominate in November. 

However, there are significant differences between the candidates, especially when it comes to their stances on queer issues. Who democrats nominate will have significant impacts in the lives of queer people in Colorado (and across America!) if they become president.

Therefore, I’m asking you, dear queer reader and/or ally, to please vote for Bernie Sanders. Here’s why: 

Aside from Bernie’s extensive record backing queer rights—including voting against the Defense of Marriage Act and doing a bunch of other cool stuff you can read about here—Sander’s policy proposals would do more for queer folks than those of any of the other candidates. Specifically, Sanders is the strongest candidate when it comes to healthcare and housing, two issues that strongly impact our community.

Healthcare

First up is Sanders’ signature policy proposal, Medicare for All, a single-payer healthcare plan which would provide every single American with quality health insurance. 

While evolution has made queer people fabulous, it unfortunately has not yet made us immortal. This means we’re subject to all the same boring, health maintenance stuff as everyone, and that stuff is expensive. However, some issues impact our community more than others.

The healthcare concern most people think of when it comes to LGBTQ folks is HIV. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way with research and treatment for HIV. Advancements like PrEP, medications that can reduce the chance of transmission by 99 percent, mean we have the chance to eradicate HIV in America in our lifetime. This goal will be delayed, however, if not everyone has access to these medications. Almost half a million gay and bisexual men in America are at high risk for contracting HIV. Medicare for All would cover PrEP for those most susceptible.

We also have a duty to prioritize coverage for those who choose to transition. Many private insurers don’t cover services related to transitioning, blatantly discriminating against transgender Americans. Medicare for All would cover hormone therapy, gender confirmation surgery, and other related services. With the passage of Sanders’ plan, instead of trans people having to crowdfund their own surgeries, they would have access to the care they need and deserve.

Further, Medicare for All would cover mental healthcare, an issue that disproportionately affects queer people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are more than twice as likely to suffer from mental illness. LGBTQ people are also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts. Trans folks are particularly affected by this, with 48 percent reporting they’ve contemplated suicide in the past 12 months.

The barriers for mental healthcare are insurmountable for many of us. Even if you’re lucky enough to have health insurance, many psychiatrists and therapists don’t accept it. If you don’t have insurance, you’re stuck hunting for providers who accept payment on a sliding scale. Sanders’ proposal would mean no one has to leave mental illness untreated.

Discrimination and Homelessness

No federal law currently exists to protect LGBTQ Americans from housing discrimination or employment discrimination. This means that if a state doesn’t mandate protections, queer people living there can be fired, denied housing, or evicted simply for existing within the borders of that state. 

Currently, 30 states lack employment and housing protections for queer people. People who have been fired or have an eviction on their record often face difficulty securing future housing and are therefore are at increased risk for becoming homeless. Sanders supports the Equality Act which would provide the protections LGBTQ Americans need to keep from losing their jobs and housing due to discrimination.

Further, the homeless community consists disproportionately of queer people, especially queer people of color, particularly among homeless youth. Right here in Denver, approximately 28 percent of youth served in Urban Peak’s Shelter and Housing programs self-identified LGBTI. That’s about 257 queer young people on the streets every night in our city. Nationally, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 43 percent of all homeless clients served at drop-in centers are LBGTQ.

Sanders has the most aggressive plan to tackle homelessness in America. He’s advocating for rent control, significant investment in and expansion of public housing, and dramatic increases in funding to state and local governments for homeless outreach, case management, and social services. Sanders is setting out to end homelessness in our country in just five years. No other candidate comes close.

Healthcare and housing are only two of the many, many issues that affect our community, and I encourage you to look into Sanders’ other proposals such as a Green New Deal to tackle climate change. After all, queers need the Earth just as much as everyone else! 

Sanders’ plans are ambitious. Their scope is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. In having such big goals, he is setting a new standard for what we should ask of our government. We have the chance to make healthcare and housing human rights in America. But, in order to get his agenda passed, we will need a movement unlike anything the country has ever seen. 

If we want the government to acknowledge our unique needs and rights as queer people, we must demand they do so. Join Sanders’ movement, and vote in the primary by March 3 as we fight for a better America for all of us.

If you’re not registered to vote but have a Colorado ID, you can do so online. If you don’t have a Colorado ID, you can register in person at a Vote Center or by mail. If you register by February 24, you’ll receive your ballot in the mail. If not, you can still vote in person from February 24 through 7 p.m. on March 3. 

And, if you’re still on the fence, consider heading to the Bellco this Sunday for a rally with the legend himself. The doors open at 4 p.m., and the event starts at 6 p.m.. Hope to see you there!