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LGBTQ issues will be focus

Oct. 10 HRC Democratic Presidential town hall event


The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) announced it will host a CNN Democratic presidential town hall in California this fall and the event will focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues, reports Mark Preston for CNN.

HRC predicts the October 10 primetime event, airing live on the eve of National Coming Out Day, will feature the largest ever audience for a Democratic presidential town hall devoted to LGBTQ issues. The candidates will take questions from the audience and CNN journalists on specific LGBTQ concerns as well as their plans to promote equality and civility.

"This town hall comes at a critical time in our fight to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in this nation," said Alphonso David, who was recently named HRC president. "Today, in 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who we are. Thirty-five states have yet to ban the dangerous and debunked practice of 'conversion therapy,' which is harming our young people. Hate crimes are rising, and more than 100 transgender people — most of whom are transgender women of color — have been killed in the United States in the last five years.

"Although the federal government should be protecting all residents, the Trump-Pence Administration is directly attacking our community by banning transgender troops from serving our country openly, undermining health care services for people living with HIV, and seeking to erase LGBTQ people from protections under law."

The Democratic candidates will appear in back-to-back town halls throughout the evening from The Novo in Los Angeles.

Locals' responses to the event

Locally, Alex Reber and Harry Young responded to CV’s request for comments about the upcoming event.

Alex Reber is treasurer of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee, and vice-chair of the Dauphin County Democratic Committee.

"I am excited that HRC is hosting this townhall and is making sure our community knows where our Democratic candidates stand on LGBT+ issues," he said. "It is a shame that our current President promised to be a friend to our community and then has banned transgender service members and fought against LGBT civil rights protections at home and abroad. 

"I suspect the Democratic candidates will largely be supportive of our community and hope that we can all unify after the primary to defeat Donald Trump. Then we must quickly work to finally pass LGBT civil rights protections and continue the Obama administration's work to create true equality for the LGBT+ community.”

Harry Young is executive director of the Keystone Business Alliance, the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce. (Disclosure: CV is a KBA member.)

"Though the candidates do not all have perfect records when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, it's encouraging to see dialogue around LGBTQ+ equality in a way that we haven't in past primaries." Yound said. "A decade ago, candidates would not have focused on LGBTQ+ equality at all, really, which marks a significant change in opinions and attitudes within the electorate. In particular, increased focus on transgender rights and gender identity mark a notable cultural shift, which is evident in the Democratic candidates this cycle. I think the simple fact that there's a serious contender who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community is historic - representation is important, and seeing the way Mayor Pete has changed the conversation is empowering."

About the event, who will attend

Invitations to participate in the town hall will be extended to Democratic presidential hopefuls who meet the DNC's qualifications for the October 2019 primary debates. Candidates must reach 2% in at least four national polls identified by the DNC to determine eligibility. The polls for this town hall must be released between June 28, 2019 and September 25, 2019.

In addition, candidates must also meet the donor threshold outlined by the DNC for the October debate, in which they must have 130,000 unique donors, including 400 donors each from at least 20 states.

So far, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have accepted HRC's invitation to participate in the event.

An HRC Foundation spokesperson said the audience will be comprised of invited guests, LGBTQ stakeholders and members of civic organizations. No public tickets will be available.

A Gallup poll conducted in May showed that 53% of Americans believe new laws are needed to protect the LGBTQ community's civil rights, while 46% do not. Those numbers have stayed steady since the Gallup last asked the question in 2017.

The latest poll showed that 63% of Americans support legal same-sex marriage; that has risen substantially since 1999, when only 35% of Americans backed it. The US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 in a contentious court battle following the lead of many states who had already recognized same-sex marriage.

The event will take place the night before October 11, the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day. The day was an idea sprung from the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987. HRC describes it as "a way of celebrating the power of coming out and promoting a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly."