A sunny and friendly atmosphere oozed from CNN screens as Democratic candidates explained at a televised event how they would fight for LGBTQ rights, taking unchallenging questions from the audience, transgender kids included.
Nine Democratic candidates went toe-to-toe at CNN’s LGBTQ town hall event, held in Minnesota, a traditionally Blue state that is arguably the most ‘woke’ in America. The questions asked to each candidate were approximately the same, covering a range of topics including advancing equality through legislation, the price of drugs for HIV treatment, how to deal with religious objections to gay marriage, and public anxieties about receiving blood transfusions from gay people. Of course the trendy topics of transgender children and school bathrooms were also touched upon, with two elementary schoolers asking questions to the 2020 hopefuls.
This is stupid, we do not have a town hall that is mainly for student loan, Healthcare, Racial discrimination at work places, Guns and Gun violence and here we are politicizing LGBTQ this is very stupid and unbelievable. I have zero issue with LGBT but stop politicizing it please
— shola (@christosilk) October 10, 2019
Given that all the candidates promise virtually the same agenda on every issue discussed – even the so-called protests that broke out during the event took the same positions – their true challenge was to stand out.
What were the promises?
Every candidate on stage promised to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity…or sex-based stereotypes,” and reverse certain acts of the Donald Trump administration, like its “ban” on transgender troops. Each spoke in platitudes about the need to stop violence against transgender women of color, 20 of which were killed last year, and the bullying of queer kids at school. Struggling to differentiate themselves, each tried to outperform the others by going above and beyond in their vows to fight for social justice and punish those who stand in their way.
Cory Booker promised to go after schools that deny bathrooms to transgender kids and deprive big pharma of patents on drugs for HIV treatment. Elizabeth Warren said she was wrong to oppose gender affirmative surgeries for inmates in 2012, which she says she now supports. Amy Klobuchar said that the various recently-innovated genders should be reflected on driver’s licenses.
Each candidate received a question about what to do about the states that forbid blood transfusions from gay men, allow people to refuse services based on their religious beliefs and give money to charities that profess the above views. The predominant answer from each candidate: impose federal laws to beat local legislation. Warren said that the good old filibuster would help push the laws through the House and Senate.
Beto O’Rourke and Warren got more spotlight than the others, with each fielding a question from transgender elementary school children.
“My name is Jacob, and I’m a 9 year old transgender American. My question is ‘What will you do to make sure that kids like me feel safer in schools, and what do you think schools can do better to make sure that I don’t have to worry about anything but my homework?” asked the kid flanged by his activist mom.
CNN invites 9-year-old transgender boy to ask Sen. Warren a question pic.twitter.com/j0yuNG58qA
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 11, 2019
When Beto O’Rourke was asked the question by another transgender kid, a protester stole the show, raging against CNN for ignoring black transgender women. The child looked stunned.
Watch the moment a black trans-woman, “Blossom,” snatches the mic from a mom and her young trans child to accuse CNN of silencing trans people of color.
No matter how hard you try, you can never be woke enough, CNN.pic.twitter.com/rbtIOzYiuj
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) October 11, 2019
She was the second protester to disrupt the event, with the first one showing up with a banner on the same issue during Buttigieg’s segment town hall.
— The Hill (@thehill) October 11, 2019
All candidates received questions about transgender children and the problems they face at school, with everyone condemning bullying and promising more classes to educate children about gender.
O’Rourke, full of humility, said that grownups should follow the children’s lead.
That tricky question of Saudi Arabia and gay rights
Several candidates were asked what they would do about countries that have a bad human rights record. Biden was asked about countries that punish homosexuality with death; the former Vice President said he would be very tough on these countries, naming one – Chechnya, which happens to not be a country, nor does it have the legislation he was asked about. Biden then expanded that he would “curtail foreign assistance to countries who, in fact, engage in this kind of behavior.” When asked specifically about Saudi Arabia, he said the country – with which the administration of Barack Obama had $94 billion worth arms sales – had “very little social redeeming value.”
Warren, for her part, promised to halt trade with countries that have bad record on LGBTQ issues.
Whose is performance was better?
One would assume Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and openly gay man, is a winner by default in this field and everyone else can go home. He did get lots of applause, but Warren stole a bit of his wind with arguably the most feisty responses and jokes.
— Amanda (@lolokamanda) October 11, 2019
Kamala Harris might have been remembered for stumbling and, at one point, seeming as if she might break into tears.
— Race Bannon 🆘 🏳️🌈 🌊 ✏ (@BannonRace) October 11, 2019
And ever the fan of getting ‘physical,’ Biden nearly kissed Anderson Cooper.
Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden nearly kisses CNN’s Anderson Cooper during CNN’s LGBT town hall event pic.twitter.com/7oRGV9DVom
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) October 11, 2019
Has it all lit up the audience? Hashtag #EqualityTownHall trended for a short while on Twitter in the US, but fell down by the end of the evening with none of the 2020 presidential hopefuls managing to secure their own top trend.
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