Nine Democratic presidential candidates discuss LGBT issues on prime time
Sat. October 12, 2019 9:06 AM by Carlos Santoscoy
Nine candidates took questions from an audience in Los Angeles, including former Vice President Joe Biden, former Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke, businessman Tom Steyer, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren. Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang cited scheduling conflicts in declining HRC's invitation to participate. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was scheduled to participate but is recovering at home following a heart attack.
The event, titled "Power of Our Pride," included two openly gay journalists – Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon – as its moderators. Dana Bash and Chris Cuomo also participated.
Protesters chanting "trans lives matter" and holding a large transgender Pride flag interrupted Buttigieg as he was about to answer his first question.
"Let me just point out there is a long and proud history in the gay, lesbian and transgender community of protest, and we applaud them for their protest," Cooper said. "They're absolutely right to be angry and upset by the lack of attention, particularly in the media, on the lives of transgender people."
Buttigieg also addressed the protesters.
"I do want to acknowledge what these demonstrators were speaking about, which is the epidemic of violence against black trans women in this country right now," Buttigieg said. "And I believe, or would like to believe, that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic."
He also discussed his coming out, calling it a "civil war."
"What it was like was a civil war, because I knew I was different long before I was ready to say that I was gay and long before I was able to acknowledge that that was something that I didn't have power over. I think you, you spend so much time as you grow up learning the things that you can control, or trying to control things, and there's some things that you don't. Learning to accept that, let alone learning that it didn't have to be a bad thing – that took me a long time."
"I so admire people who are coming out at young ages, but also recognize that there's no right age, or right way, or right time to come out. I think people are ready when they're ready. And for me, I was well into my twenties before I was really ready to say, even to myself, that I was gay. And I remember what it was like the first time I pulled aside a good friend and just said 'hey.' It was my way of coming out to myself, but even then, I wasn't ready to come out to the world. And it was really that experience of going to war in Afghanistan and realizing that I could lose my life in my early thirties, be a grown man, not to mention the mayor of a city, and have no idea what it was like to be in love – that I thought that's just, that's just got to end," Buttigieg said.
One of Warren's standout moments came when she was asked about marriage equality.
"Let's say you're on the campaign trail and a supporter approaches you and says, 'Senator, I'm old fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.' What is your response?" a man asked.
"Well, I'm going to assume it's a guy who said that, and I'm gonna say, 'Then just marry one woman. I'm cool with that. If you can find one,'" Warren joked.
O'Rourke also had a strong night – saying conversion therapy should be illegal because it is "tantamount to torture" and that religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage should lose their tax-exempt status – but Biden seemed to deliver uneven responses.
"We talked about this in San Francisco, it was all about, you know gay bathhouses. It's all about round the clock sex, it's all ...c'mon man!" Biden answered when asked how he as president would help ease disparities in health, including higher rates of HIV among Black Americans.
At another point, Biden, play-acted as if he were gay.
"For example, when I came out and..." he said, referring his coming out for marriage equality in 2012.
"That would be news," Cooper interrupted as Biden smiled.
Biden walked across the stage and put his arm around Cooper. "I got something to tell you," Biden joked.
(Related: Ahead of LGBT town hall, Buttigieg, Warren, Harris announce LGBT plans.)
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