Presidential hopefuls outline priorities for LGBTQ issues 10 years after Iowa issues first gay marriage license

2020 candidates defended their record and proposed policies in favor of LGBTQ Americans including inclusive housing policies, rolling back the ban on people who are transgender serving in the military, and addressing violence against LGBTQ individuals.


Former Vice President Joe Biden shakes the hand of moderator Lyz Lenz at the LGBTQ forum Friday Sept. 20

Sarah Watson, Politics Editor

Ten Democratic candidates outlined their positions on LGBTQ issues at a forum Sept. 20 at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, the first of its kind since before Iowa began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2009.

In a sweltering auditorium, presidential hopefuls outlined their support for the Equal Rights Act, a piece of legislation in Congress that would solidify freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation among other rights, strike down the ban of transgender Americans from serving in the military, address violence against members in LGBTQ community, and a litany of other LGBTQ-related policies.

Presidential hopefuls with long records, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and . Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, defended past actions and positions related to the LGBTQ community. Moderator Lyz Lenz, a columnist at The Gazette pressed Biden on some of his past stances and comments. Biden defended a 1994 crime bill he had a hand in writing. Opponents have said the bill led to mass incarceration, while Biden has refuted that claim. A Politifact analysis found Biden’s dispute to be “half-true,” saying that while the bill wasn’t the source of exponential increases in the number of inmates, it fit in a trend of prison expansion from the 1970s to the 2000s and included funding for drug treatment.

Biden pointed to housing policies tailored to LGBTQ needs as a way to address arrest-rates for the LGBTQ community.

“I came out on ‘Meet the Press’ first in favor of gay marriage before anyone else did nationally,” Biden said in response to a question about his past comments on Vice President Mike Pence being a “decent” person. He went on to say he still called President Trump “ ‘president,’ even though I don’t think he’s all that decent.”

Gabbard, whose father supported several anti-LGBTQ groups in Hawaii, was asked about previous links to her father’s positions.

“My record speaks for itself,” she said, referencing her military background when she served with people who were LGBTQ, and saying she supported rolling back a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay major-party presidential candidate to make the debate stage, recounted his experience serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military. Buttigieg came out in a June 2015 article just before his mayoral re-election campaign. He detailed his support for appointing Supreme Court justices who had a record of supporting LGBTQ rights and reviewing and editing policy based on science, such as the ban on gay men from giving blood.

Candidates also touched on violence against people who are transgender. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., read a list of 18 trans women of color who have died so far this year to open her statement.

“It’s time for a president of the United States to say their names,” Warren said to a standing ovation.

That opening impressed Osceola County Democratic Chair Kathy Winter, who drove close to five hours to see the candidates speak on LGBTQ issues in person. She said Buttigieg also stood out to her during the forum.

“Of course, Mayor Pete was a crowd favorite as a member of the community himself,” she said, adding that she thought his first response “really answered the question.”

Jane Nesmith, the director of the Writing Center at Coe College, said she used the forum to narrow her choices for whom to caucus for in February. She said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Warren impressed her.

“I think any of them could be part of a government that I would be really happy to see,” she said. “But [Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren] I thought were also inspiring. And I think that’s something that you also need to be to be a leader, you need to be able to be inspiring and get people to follow behind you.”

Booker discussed his experience as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, when he addressed violence and homelessness, which LGBTQ communities were often disproportionately affected by. He said he would appoint an attorney general and secretary of education who supported LGBTQ rights.

“As your president, a lifelong ally, it is so important to have an agenda on Day 1,” he said.

Several celebrities in the LGBTQ communities introduced candidates, including Angelica Ross, an actor and activist, who hosted the event, and Karamo Brown, from the show “Queer Eye.” The forum was sponsored by The Advocate, Gazette, OneIowa, and GLAAD.

Facebook Comments