Transgender and Other LGBTQ Issues Debated in First Presidential TV Debate

Transgender and other LGBTQ issues were discussed on the stage of Wednesday night’s (June 26) Democratic debate.

Ten of the 20 eligible Democrats campaigning for the party’s presidential nomination took part in the debate on NBC – Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Tim Ryan, Bill De Blasio, Julian Castro, and Beto O’Rourke – and LGBTQ issues, particularly trans issues, were touched on by a few of the candidates.

Tulsi Gabbard, a Representative from Hawaii, was challenged by moderator Lester Holt over her anti-LGBTQ past working with her father’s Christian lobbying group. Gabbard distanced herself from her past while reiterating her support of the Equality Act.

“Let me say that there is no one in our government at any level who has the right to tell any American who they should be allowed to love or who they should be allowed to marry,” she said. “My record in Congress for over six years shows my commitment to fighting for LGBTQ equality. I serve on the Equality Caucus and recently voted for passage of the Equality Act. Maybe many people in this country can relate to the fact that I grew up in a socially conservative home, held views when I was very young that I no longer hold today.”

However, New Jersey senator Cory Booker fought back, arguing that it wasn’t enough for Gabbard to support the Equality Act to claim she fights for LGBTQ rights.

“It’s not enough,” he said. “Look, civil rights is someplace to begin, but in the African American civil rights community, another place to focus on was to stop the lynching of African Americans.”

Booker went on to note the high rates of violence and murder that transgender Americans, particularly black trans Americans, face.

“We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African American trans Americans and the incredibly high rates of murder right now,” he said. “We don’t talk about how many children, about 30 percent of LGBTQ kids, who do not go to school because of fear. It’s not enough to just be on the Equality Act. I’m an original co-sponsor. We need to have a president that will fight to protect LGBTQ Americans every single day from violence in America.”

Former housing secretary Julian Castro also touched on trans people’s reproductive rights. He argued that discussions about abortion and other reproductive healthcare should include trans men (who he incorrectly referred to as “trans females”).

“I don’t believe in only reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice,” he said. “What that means is that just because a woman, or let’s also not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female, is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose. And I so absolutely would cover the right to have an abortion.

LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD commended the candidates for their inclusion of LGBTQ issues into the debate.

“GLAAD commends tonight’s inclusion of LGBTQ issues by debate moderators in this first debate of the 2020 presidential cycle,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the President and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “Putting LGBTQ-specific issues front and center stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric and record of the Trump administration, which has put a target on the backs of LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities since the day he took office.”

The remaining ten Democratic candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris, will debate tonight (June 27) at 9pm on NBC.