Today is the 31st Annual National Coming Out Day and last night, nine Democratic presidential candidates honored this day by standing in front of 100’s of LGBTQ people and allies to tell them how they would fight for their rights.
CNN partnered with the Human Rights Campaign to host the LGBTQ Equality Town Hall. Nine candidates had 30 minutes each to answer questions from the audience about anything concerning the LGTBQ community.
The candidates in the hot seat were: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro, Tom Steyer, and Amy Klobucher. Topics ranged from protecting LGBTQ kids in schools, HIV/AIDS, non-discrimination in federal laws, conversion therapy, the ban on gay men giving blood, and more.
Cory Booker was up first and was asked if he would remove the ban on allowing gay men to donate blood.
The question comes from the law the FDA placed in the 1980’s during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The law banned gay men from donating blood for life, but it was later changed in 2015 to allow gay men to donate blood only if they haven’t had sexual relations in at least a year.
Cory Booker’s response: “Two words: Absolutely yes.” He added that the law is an outdated stigma and, if elected president, he will use his platform to dispel ignorance every day.
Joe Biden took the stage next and stressed that passing the Equality Act would come “first and foremost”. He added that he would constantly educate the American people about the fact that LGBTQ people do not have the same civil rights as others.
Pete Buttigieg, the only LGBTQ candidate in the race, said that when people use faith to discriminate against LGBTQ people it “makes God smaller’’ and “is an insult to faith.” He talked about his own faith, which is Episcopalian, and how it teaches him to love.
During Buttigieg’s time he was interrupted by protesters who were bringing attention to the epidemic of violence against black transgender women. He praised them for bringing attention to the problem and promised that he was “committed to ending that epidemic.”
Another noteworthy moment came from Elizabeth Warren. The question was about marriage equality: “What do you say to someone who says ‘my faith tells me that marriage is between one man and one woman’?”
Warren responded, “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy that said that,” the crowd instantly started laughing, “and I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that’”
She finished with: “If you can find one.” The crowd broke into more laughter.
Beto O’Rourke was quoted saying religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. He says if he’s elected he will actually make that a priority and added that there should be no reward to any organization that denies full human rights to every American citizen.
This town hall was a way of seeing the Democratic presidential candidates on a more personal level than we’re used to seeing at them at debates. The next debate is this Tuesday, October 15th, so tune in to see the candidates go head to head on a variety of topics.
Happy National Coming Out Day!