2020 Democrats to focus on LGBT issues at CNN town hall

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopefuls will take yet another stage in October; this time to discuss their stances on issues pertaining to the LGBT community.

CNN and LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign announced Wednesday, at the end of CNN’s 7-hour forum on climate change, that they will be partnering to host the Oct. 10 town hall.

In a statement provided to CNN Thursday, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said the upcoming town hall “comes at a critical time in our fight to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in this nation.” 

According to CNN, six of the 10 qualifying candidates have so far confirmed their attendance. They are: former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Any candidate who qualifies under the DNC’s criteria for the October round of Democratic primary debates will also qualify to speak at the LGBT event. 

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The event with its focus on LGBT issues comes after the Trump administration has introduced policies such as banning transgender Americans from serving in the military, prohibiting embassies from flying rainbow flags during Pride Month and rolling back certain Obama-era nondiscrimination protections.

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By contrast, the participating Democrats have all supported passage of the Equality Act, federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been opposed by conservatives who say it compromises religious freedom. 

2020 Democrats on LGBT issues

Biden has historically supported same-sex marriage. He has spoken out against the Trump administration’s moves on LGBT rights and also said the Equality Act will be a No. 1 priority should he be elected president. Of LGBT rights, Biden said in 2014 that “they are the civil rights of our day.”

The only openly gay candidate seeking the Oval Office, Buttigieg has outlined policy areas related to LGBT rights he will pursue as president, including enforcing nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act. 

“What every gay person has in common with every excluded person of any kind is knowing what it’s like to see a wall between you and the rest of the world and wonder what it’s like on the other side,” he said at a Human Rights Campaign event in May. “I am here to build bridges and to tear down walls.”

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Castro set himself apart from other Democratic candidates in the first presidential debate when he specifically addressed the transgender community as included in his reproductive rights agenda.

Though he misspoke by saying that transgender women need access to abortions (he later clarified he meant transgender men and gender-nonconforming people), many in the community noted the rarity of politicians considering trans people in their policies.

Castro also has a history of advocating for LGBT people who experience homelessness during his time in the Obama administration leading HUD.

Harris says she will work as president to restore nondiscrimination provisions, as well as to add a third-gender option to federal identification documents. She also plans to focus on hate crime prevention and response. She was one of the original 46 co-sponsors of the Equality Act.

As California state attorney general, Harris was outspoken against Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state in 2008.

Klobuchar, who was also part of the Equality Act effort, has said she will reverse Trump’s military ban on transgender individuals in her first 100 days in office. She was endorsed in her 2018 Senate race by the Human Rights Campaign.

“When I got to the Senate… I was always understanding of some of the trans issues, and was appalled of course by what’s been going on lately with this president going backwards,” she said in an interview with the National Center for Transgender Equality last month.

Warren’s record on LGBT rights is extensive.

“As president, I would fight to extend protections for LGBTQ+ Americans, particularly transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, who continue to face discrimination in housing, education, employment and health care,” she told PAPER magazine in July.

The Massachusetts senator recently introduced legislation that would grant same-sex married couples federal tax refunds that they did not receive before same-sex marriage was legalized.

Warren was also a co-sponsor of the Equality Act. After the 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Warren lead an effort to reverse the ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men donating blood. 

The CNN town hall will take place the night before the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day.

Some Democratic candidates are also scheduled to speak at a Sept. 20 presidential forum on LGBT issues in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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