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Beto O'Rourke unveils plan to strengthen LGBTQ protections

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke took part in a "pride run" with members and allies of the LGBTQ community in New York City on Wednesday while his presidential campaign released a new "LGBTQ+ Equality" plan.

While the plan's release coincided with Pride Month, it was also released three years to the day of the Pulse nightclub shooting. On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed in the attack at the gay club in Orlando, while more than 50 others were wounded.

"I want to make sure part of the way we commemorate those victims and acknowledge the hatred and the homophobia that still exists in this country is to take decisive action to protect the full rights of every single one of our fellow Americans," O'Rourke said.

The plan lays out three steps to promote equality within the LGBTQ+ community including: the use of executive authority, a plan to work with congress and a plan to work with allies to "strengthen protections for the LGBTQ+ community globally."

O'Rourke says he would also overturn the "transgender troop ban" and end the "Deploy or Get Out" policy that has led to the dismissal of service members who have HIV.

O'Rourke also plans to direct the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate crimes against transgender people, in particular transgender women of color. During Wednesday's pride race, O'Rourke spoke to reporters about the recent high-profile murders of two transgender women, Chynal Lindsey and Muhlaysia Booker, in his home state of Texas. 

"The impunity with which this violence and these murders are taking place is provoking a courageous response and I'm inspired by that and that's reflected in this plan." O'Rourke told reporters.

Also in the plan is a commitment to add sexual orientation and gender identity measure to Census Bureau's America Community Survey and other large scale population surveys. During the race O'Rourke was asked by CBS News if he supports including a third gender marker "X" on federal documents, like other Democratic presidential candidates Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders.

"Whether it comes to the census, whether we ease the path to change somebody's name or gender on legal documents I want that to be as easy as possible for every American." O'Rourke said and added, "Remove the barriers and the red tape that are in the way right now."

As president, O'Rourke says he would appoint judges and executive branch officials, including openly LGBTQ appointees, who, "have demonstrated record of supporting the full civil rights of every single person."

Additionally, O'Rourke is hoping to work with congress to ensure members of the LGBTQ community have equal access to health insurance "including hormone and other gender-affirming treatments and HIV prevention and treatment."

Supporters of O'Rourke are confident the former Texas congressman can lead on the issue. "I think he wants universal rights and protections for the entire queer community," said Rob Smith of the Phluid Project who participated in the pride run Wednesday morning and has been a supporter since 2017.

Others in attendance are still getting to know the presidential hopeful. "It's just a good way to get out, learn more about a candidate and get my morning run in," said lawyer Paul Humphreys, 39.

"I'm trying to meet as many of the candidates as possible and this was an opportunity to meet Beto," said flight attendant Timothy Saulter. "I have to say he is my first choice and the reason he's my first choice is he's inspirational and he's of a different generation and I think we need to start looking to the future instead of electing these same old candidates."

O'Rourke is not the first 2020 presidential hopeful to release a plan addressing LGBTQ protections and rights. On June 1, Sen. Gillibrand released her own proposal to combat discrimination and promote safety and equality. Others have spoken out about for the need for protections at various events marking Pride Month.