CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — GLAAD co-hosted the first Presidential Candidate Forum on LGBTQ issues to take place during the 2020 election cycle. Co-sponsored by GLAAD, One Iowa, The Gazette and The Advocate, the LGBTQ Forum was live-streamed on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ABCNews.com, and NBC News Now from Coe College’s Sinclair Auditorium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The event was hosted by transgender actor and activist Angelica Ross and GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. The events moderators were Lyz Lenz, The Gazette columnist; Zach Stafford, The Advocate editor-in-chief; and Keenan Crow, One Iowa director of policy and advocacy. A full auditorium of local LGBTQ community members and notables attended.
During the Forum, 10 Democratic presidential candidates — Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Sestak, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson — each laid out their vision for improving LGBTQ acceptance. Each candidate also answered specific questions on how they would address some of the largest issues affecting the LGBTQ community.
“The last time we witnessed a presidential candidate forum dedicated to LGBTQ issues was 2007 and none of the major Democratic candidates supported marriage equality at the time,” said Ellis. “Tonight’s forum demonstrates how far LGBTQ acceptance has progressed while educating Americans about how far we have yet to go to reach full equality and reverse the anti-LGBTQ actions of the Trump administration. It was the beginning of a conversation that we will keep going until we have a pro-equality President in the White House.”
Ross opened the night reviewing some of the harms that the Trump Administration has fostered against the transgender community and called out Secretary Betsy DeVos for targeting transgender students. She also sent a message to the transgender community: “To all the trans and gender-diverse people here or watching at home who have been hurt by hate: you are beautiful. You are worthy. And we will not stop until you too have access to the American dream.”
During the Forum, “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown also surprised the crowd and called out the Trump administration for its continued attacks on the LGBTQ community. In his remarks, Brown stated: “The rhetoric coming from the White House that is meant to divide our nation and target marginalized communities has to stop. And it is time for all marginalized communities to stand united. The 2020 presidential election is too important for the LGBTQ community, for the black community, and for those Americans like me who live at the intersection to be silent. We need to be loud and proud.”
At the beginning of the LGBTQ Forum, out country music star Billy Gilman performed the National Anthem. Other LGBTQ notables in attendance included actress Isis King (Netflix’s “When They See Us”), producer and TV host Raymond Braun and Equality Florida’s Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting and leading gun reform advocate.
Official media partners The Advocate, Autostraddle, Betches, Billboard, Logo, NBC Out, Newsweek, Out, PLUS, Pride.com, them., and The Washington Blade have been sharing the forum live-stream across their social channels to help spread the word about LGBTQ acceptance.
The LGBTQ Forum came as the 2020 presidential election conversation has so far failed to address LGBTQ-specific issues during nationally televised events, GLAAD stated. GLAAD’s Trump Accountability Project has counted 125 anti-LGBTQ attacks in policy and rhetoric from the Trump administration, including Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military and the administration’s opposition to the Equality Act.
The LGBTQ Forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was the first public event specifically focused on LGBTQ issues in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Exit polls from the 2018 midterm elections revealed LGBTQ voters represented about six percent of the electorate.