Activists pressure debate moderator to question Pence, Harris on LGBTQ issues

WASHINGTON — National advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues are lobbying the debate commission and moderator Susan Page to commit to ask Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris questions focused on the community for next week’s vice presidential debate.

In a letter obtained exclusively by Yahoo News, over a dozen LGBTQIA+ and progressive groups, including the Center for American Progress and the LGBTQ Victory Fund — led by the Human Rights Campaign — specifically zeroed in on stances taken by Pence and the Trump administration as racist, misogynistic and transphobic, and urged both Page and the commission to press Pence on his record.

“In your role as moderator, we hope you will ensure the candidates for Vice President address the issues Americans care about,” the letter states.

In 2019, the Trump administration opposed the passage of the Equality Act, a House bill that offered protections against discrimination for “sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” The bill, introduced in 2015, passed in the House of Representatives in 2019 before being retired to committee in the Republican-controlled Senate. President Trump opposed the legislation.

“The Trump Administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, the House-passed bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” the White House said in a 2019 statement.

In the letter to the debate commission and Page, the activists said the LGBTQ community was “in crisis” thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic and the policies of the Trump administration.

“In the midst of this pandemic, President Trump and Vice President Pence put forward a rule limiting LGBTQ people’s access to health care by eliminating LGBTQ non-discrimination protections from the Affordable Care Act,” the letter stated, adding, “Hate-fueled violence is on the rise, and so far this year 30 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed, putting us on track for the deadliest year on record for the transgender community. A majority of those lost are Black and Latinx transgender women who live at the intersection of racism, misogyny, and transphobia — all of which have been fomented and exacerbated by Trump, Pence, and their allies. LGBTQ children are dealing with higher instances of bullying in schools, all while Secretary DeVos offers fewer methods of recourse against those bullies.”

Neither the The Trump Campaign nor Page responded to a request for comment.

Mike Pence
Mike Pence at the White House on Monday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

One out of every 10 voters identifies as LGBTQ, according to recent data from NBC News. Currently, Biden holds a 43-point lead over Trump with these voters.

LGBT issues were largely left out of the Democratic primary debates and no questions on those topics were asked during Tuesday night’s chaotic presidential debate between Trump and former vice president Joe Biden.

“Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris have deeply divergent records on equality that should be highlighted for Americans,” the letter continues, citing what they believe to be a lackluster precedent for pushing candidates on these issues. “In 2016, presidential and vice-presidential debate moderators did not ask candidates a single question about LGBTQ issues across four debates. You have the opportunity to change that and address the issues our community faces in this trying time.”


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