CNN on Thursday night broadcast a
Democratic presidential town hall on LGBT issues hosted by the Human
Rights Campaign (HRC).
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
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
Buttigieg also addressed the
“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
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
of LGBT town hall, Buttigieg, Warren, Harris announce LGBT plans.)