Election 2020: LGBTQ Town Hall

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Amid the ongoing impeachment proceedings, the 2020 Democratic candidates refocused on a different issue on Tuesday when they participated in a town hall on LGBTQ issues. The town hall, hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and CNN in Los Angeles, featured each of the candidates taking questions from a studio audience in succession. Nine presidential candidates participated in the form; the ony top-polling candidate to not attend was Bernie Sanders, who withdrew from the event after suffering a heart attack last week.

Media coverage of the event largely agreed that Pete Buttigieg, who hopes to be the first openly gay president, was one of the stars of the town hall. He spoke at length about the struggles he has faced as a result of his sexuality and his plans to expand inclusivity and protections for LGBTQ people. Frontrunner Elizabeth Warren also had a standout moment: when an audience member asked what she would do if a voter told her that their religious beliefs taught that marriage was between one man and one woman, Warren responded, “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that. Assuming you can find one.”

Protesters maintained a strong presence throughout the event, with several standing up to demand that the candidates take action to support the needs of black transgender women. These women are currently facing an epidemic of violence in the United States, with at least 18 black transgender women killed in 2019 so far. The candidates and the moderators welcomed the protesters comments, with Buttigieg and Kamala Harris expressing sympathy and distress about the violence affecting the transgender community.

Also this week, frontrunner Joe Biden came out in favor of impeachment for the first time. Previously, he had only said that he supported an impeachment inquiry if President Trump did not cooperate with Congress. Biden is the only candidate directly involved in the impeachment inquiry, as Trump is being investigated for his calls for Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter for their business dealings in Ukraine.

This week, conservative outlets challenged Warren for a part of her biography that she frequently references. Warren claims that when she became visibly pregnant after her first year as a teacher, the principal hired someone else to replace her. Right-leaning articles claim that Warren has previously said that she left education because her classes weren’t working out for her and that the school had initially extended her contract for another year. Warren defended her story and also called for women to tell their own stories of being pushed out of workplaces due to pregnancy discrimination, which many women encounter.

The candidates will participate in the next primary debate on Tuesday, October 15. It will be the biggest debate so far, with 12 candidates sharing the stage. The next debate, in November, has higher fundraising and polling thresholds that the candidates must meet in order to participate.