CNN and Human Rights Campaign host Democratic town hall focused on LGBTQ+ issues


Photo courtesy of CNN’s promo on social media.

Payton Carns

Last Night, CNN and the Human Rights Campaign hosted a town hall in Los Angeles for the Democratic presidential candidates to answer questions from the community specifically related to LGBTQ+ issues.

The town hall was made up of 30-minute segments including candidates like Senator Cory Booker, former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Kamala Harris. Other notable candidates include former Congressman Beto O’ Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Secretary Julian Castro and businessman Tom Steyer.

A diverse range of people were able to ask specific questions related to their life or line of work that specifically had to do with legal and societal problems the LGBTQ+ community faces.

Cory Booker

The first candidate to take the stage was Senator Cory Booker.

In response to being asked how he will emphasize equity and inclusion in the country, Booker referenced his “battle with racial discrimination” and his history as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey when he refused to officiate any marriages until all people were legally allowed to marry. 

He stated that “he is a human being and will never support the mistreatment of a human being.”

Additionally, Booker believes his past experience working at a help hotline and his Christian faith have taught him “to love no matter what” and he wants to “push people to understand the ridiculousness of homophobia.” 

One step he will take that he believes will secure safety in school is to appoint a new Secretary of Education that “sees the value of everyone.” 

Booker is a strong supporter of the Equality Act and made it clear that he would not agree with the Supreme Court if they do not vote to condemn businesses from being able to fire someone if they are married to someone of the same sex.

He also mentioned that if elected, he will use “Medicare For All” to negotiate prices to make sure all Americans can afford medications and will take patents away from corporations if they do not cooperate. 

Joe Biden

Next, Former Vice President Joe Biden answered questions from the audience. Biden stated that educating people is the best way to ensure equity and inclusion.

He said that under the Trump administration, “the whole system is messed up” and he will “fix what Trump broke.”

Biden referenced to his late son’s history with being an advocate for the rights of transgender Americans and wants to continue what his son began. He is a supporter of the Equality Act and believes it is “only constitutional that they are included under Title 9.”

Biden also wants to take strides to lessen the cost of HIV medication and wants it to be completely subsidized by 2021.

Lastly, he mentioned his history with the Obama administration when he expressed support for equal marriage, even before the administration did.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete Buttigieg came out next. He is the first openly gay man to run for President.

Buttigieg’s time was delayed before the first question after protestors and advocates for the rights of transgender, black Americans began holding up their visibility flag.

Buttigieg told the story of when he first knew he was gay and admitted he “couldn’t understand everyone’s struggles in the LGBTQ+ community as a white man,” but he doesn’t think there is “a right or wrong way to be queer.”

He stated that he will “urgently” fight for the Equality Act and will get it passed early in his Presidency. 

He used his healthcare policy of “Medicare for all that want it” to ensure that he will attempt to lessen the cost of HIV medication but also take preventative steps before people are infected.

On the topic of sexually active gay men being unable to donate blood, he said he will require the FDA to change its guidelines to end that restriction and make sure “rules are based on science, not prejudice.”

Lastly, Buttigieg referenced his participation in faith and expressed his disappointment in members of the Church that “use religion to harm people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

He believes that when religion is used “that way” it “makes God smaller.”

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren took the stage next. Her first point was to ensure passage of the Equality Act.

To do this, Warren wants a Democratic-run Senate to vote out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and to rollback the filibuster. 

Warren, like other candidates, mentioned her faith as a reason to why she supports equality for all Americans and the “hatefulness from people of faith shocked her.”

Warren mentioned the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ youth, with whom she marches with at the Boston Pride Parade. BAGLY is an organization dedicated to helping those kicked out of their homes for their sexual orientation.

She was another candidate to mention lowering the prices of medicine through a “Medicare for All” plan.

One notable aspect of her time was when she addressed a question from a young transgender boy on how he would be able to stay safe in schools.

She told the boy she would “let him approve” the new Secretary of Education if she were elected.

Warren also encourages gender orientation as a key component in the classroom and thinks that all students should learn about it at a young age.

Lastly, she believes that in order to trade with the United States other countries need to have certain guidelines, and if a country is punishing someone for being queer, we shouldn’t be trading with them.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris was up after Senator Warren. Harris began by referencing her history as a lawyer where she refused to defend cases that had to do with restricting LGBTQ+ rights.

She was also the first-ever person to officiate a same-sex marriage in San Francisco.

When asked how she would convince conservative areas to support LGBTQ+ legislation, she stated that she would “tell the story of diversity and how people come together and love each other equally.”

She said the LGBTQ+ community “does nothing but spread love.” Her main reasoning for this was “it’s not affecting your lives, so why restrict theirs?”

Harris reiterated the increased rates of HIV in African American queer males and said a key component of her campaign will be to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

She then referenced to her past again when in 2003, she created a whole division in her office in San Francisco to provide a safe place for those subject to abuse in the trans community.

She went on to say “the safety of the transgender community is still at risk” and she will make sure they are represented.

Lastly, Harris, like many of the other candidates, vowed to get rid of current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The Democrats will face off on Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. in the biggest primary debate in history, with 12 candidates set to take the stage.