Presidential LGBTQ Forums: This is a Community Under Attack

Written by | Lifestyle

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall on Climate Change. Photo courtesy CNN)

Presidential candidates will soon have to declare just how committed they are to equality. Media watchdogs GLAAD is hosting a candidates’ forum September 20. And two weeks later, CNN is partnering with LGBTQ equality advocates HRC (the Human Rights Campaign) to hold a Presidential Town Hall Oct. 10.

The issues most urgent to LGBTQ voters have gotten little attention so far this election cycle. Meanwhile, Trump allies are working at every level of government to undermine what protections the community can still claim.

So… what should the moderators be pressing the candidates to say?

Tip of the Iceberg

The price of admission for any LGBTQ-friendly contender should be commitment to restoring trans rights in America. From Day One of the current administration (when the White House equality webpage disappeared the instant President Obama was no longer in office), Donald Trump has singled out transgender Americans to bear the full brunt of his bigotry.

He’s tried to expunge them from the military. He’s fought their ability to use the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity with so-called “religious freedom” initiatives. He’s also defended and encouraged their detractors at every opportunity.

Beyond that, there’s the administration’s tireless efforts to undo every LGBTQ advance since the Eisenhower era.

Rights? What Rights?

Just yesterday, GOP attorneys general and lawmakers filed amicus briefs with the US Supreme Court arguing that LGBTQ workers are not protected by federal civil rights law.

In two separate filings, 48 members of Congress and 15 attorneys general posit that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which outlaws discrimination in employment on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” — has no validity in workplace discrimination due to a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

According to one brief, at the time Congress enacted Title VII, “‘Sex,’ ‘sexual orientation,’ and ‘gender identity’ had different meanings.” The filing goes on to claim that “as a result, the word ‘sex’ in Title VII cannot be fairly construed to mean or include ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity.’ The Second Circuit and the Sixth Circuit erroneously conflated these terms to redefine and broaden Title VII beyond its congressionally intended scope.”

The filings share one other commonality: Both contend that the power to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people belongs solely to Congress.

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Begging the Question

The question for 2020 candidates is not “how can LGBTQ citizens become more than second-class citizens?” Gay people, trans people, queer people, bisexuals and anyone else who doesn’t look, act, or talk like they’re wearing a MAGA hat is in the crosshairs. What will any of these presidential candidates do to move vulnerable Americans into a space where their rights, their homes, their marriages, their children and their persons and property can remain safe?

Hearings on the Equality Act were a farce in which proponents were easily out-maneuvered by right-wingnuts who claimed that the act would undermine women in sports and put peeping Tom males in bathrooms where they could spy on ladies doing their business. And where were the liberals? Caught flatfooted.

In other words, it’s open season on LGBTQ Americans. What are you going to do about it?

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Damage Control

Acceptance of the LGBTQ community is in decline for the first time since George W. Bush was in the White House and violent hate crimes are on the rise. A recent Harris Poll conducted with GLAAD shows a decline in LGBTQ acceptance among younger Americans. Meanwhile, GLAAD’s Trump Accountability Project claims close to 115 attacks on LGBTQ Americans from inside the Oval Office.

Some 63 percent of Americans do still support same-sex marriage. But a May Gallup poll showed that while 53 percent of Americans believe new laws are needed to protect LGBTQ rights, an almost equal number at 46 percent do not.

The first of these exchanges takes place on September 20 at Coe College in Iowa. The GLAAD forum is open to all declared candidates. Confirmed to attend: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Juán Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Joe Sestak, and Marianne Williamson.

The list of Iowa no-shows so far? Included are Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.

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Chumps for Trump

Of the four Republican candidates, Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh, William Weld and Donald Trump — none have stated plans to attend. Of course, with Trump getting an endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans a few weeks back, he may feel he has the gay vote all locked up.

The CNN/HRC event, by contrast, is limited to include only candidates who poll at or above 2 percent in at least four reputable national polls. The town hall has already been branded “Power of Our Pride,” and its October 10 date falls the day before National Coming Out Day Friday, October 11. The event will be broadcast live from the Novo in Los Angeles.

In announcing the event, HRC President Alphonso David said: “For nearly 40 years, the Human Rights Campaign has fought to realize a world in which LGBTQ people are safe, equal and free in every aspect of our lives. Today, at a time when our most basic civil rights and democratic values are under attack, our work has never been more urgent. We are eager to hear from this field of Democratic presidential candidates about how they plan to win full federal equality, defend the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people, and protect the most vulnerable among us — both here in the United States and around the globe — from stigma, institutional inequality, discrimination, and violence.”

So far, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have accepted HRC’s invitation to participate in the event.

Where is Bernie Sanders in all this? He’s arguably the most liberal, and one of the three frontrunners. So far, he’s the only one of the top tier candidates who hasn’t said he’ll be at either event.

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Last modified: September 13, 2019