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LGBTQ issues absent from Trump-Biden debate

Advocacy groups hoped candidates would address queer topics

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Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden debate on CNN on Jun 27, 2024. (Screen captures via CNN)

At their televised debate in Atlanta on June 27, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump traded barbs on issues from abortion and election integrity to immigration and foreign policy. The 81 and 78-year-old candidates even argued over who is a better golfer.

Absent from the discussion, however, were matters of LGBTQ rights that have animated national politics in this election cycle with the presumptive Republican nominee promising to weaponize the federal government against queer and trans Americans as the president pledges to build on his record of expanding their freedoms and protections.

CNN hosted Thursday’s debate, with the network’s anchors Dana Bash and Jake Tapper moderating. ABC News will run the second debate scheduled for September 10.

The president’s performance was widely criticized as halting and shaky, with White House reporter Peter Baker of The New York Times writing that Democratic Party leaders are calling for him to be replaced at the top of the ticket.

Also setting the tone early into the program was Trump’s repetition of the lie that Democrats are so “radical” on matters of abortion that they “will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth.”

Biden, meanwhile, laid the blame at his opponent’s feet for appointing three U.S. Supreme Court justices during his term in office who overturned Roe v. Wade’s 51-year-old constitutional protections for abortion.

He also referenced the fallout from that ruling and the extreme restrictions passed by conservative legislators in its wake, arguing that Trump would not veto a federal abortion ban if Republican majorities in Congress were to pass one.

Trump also repeated falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election.

“Will you pledge tonight that once all legal challenges have been exhausted, that you will accept the results of this election,” Bash asked him, “regardless of who wins, and you will say right now that political violence in any form is unacceptable?”

The Republican frontrunner first responded by denying he was responsible for his supporters’ violent ransacking of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 2021.

After the CNN anchor pressed him twice to answer the first part of her question, Trump said, “if it’s a fair and legal and good election, absolutely” but “the fraud and everything else was ridiculous.”

“You appealed and appealed to courts all across the country,” Biden responded. “Not one single court in America said any of your claims had any merit, state or local, none. But you continue to provoke this lie about somehow, there’s all this misrepresentation, all this stealing — there is no evidence of that at all.”

The president continued, “And I tell you what, I doubt whether you’ll accept it, because you’re such a whiner.”

Advocacy groups hoped the debate would address LGBTQ issues

Leading up to the debate, advocacy groups urged the candidates to defend their records on and policy proposals concerning LGBTQ rights, with some arguing the discussion would advantage President Joe Biden’s campaign, as reported by The Hill’s Brooke Migdon.

As the community celebrated Pride this month, the Biden-Harris 2024 team made significant investments in paid media and the Out for Biden national organizing effort to court LGBTQ voters, who are expected to comprise a larger share of the electorate than ever before.

“This will be an enormous slight to our community if LGBTQ questions are not asked during this debate,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said. “Our community is deeply affected by where these candidates stand.” 

“The safety and freedom of LGBTQ people depends on your engagement with the candidates and ability to inform voters about their records and proposals,” she said.

Annise Parker, the outgoing president and CEO of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, said “I certainly hope that the moderators bring up the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ issues, because there is a stark contrast between the two candidates.”

“I hope we see a substantive conversation on the records of these two men for the fight for a more equal society,” said Brandon Wolf, national press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign.

“A vast majority of people in this country support an America that treats people with dignity and respect; they support an America that prevents people from experiencing discrimination and harm simply because of who they are,” he said.

“That is where the American people largely are, and I hope we get an opportunity on that stage to see the contrast between these two candidates.” 

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Politics

Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record

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U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Donald Trump announced anti-LGBTQ U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) as his 2024 running mate in a Truth Social post on Monday.

A political neophyte who was first elected in 2022 thanks to Trump’s endorsement, Vance once compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler, also calling him “cultural heroin” and “an opioid of the masses.”

The Ohio senator’s journey from critic to acolyte was cemented over the weekend.

After Trump walked away from an assassination attempt and both of the major candidates said it was time to turn down the rhetoric, Vance went further than many on the right and directly blamed President Joe Biden and his campaign for the gunman’s actions.

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” he said on X. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

LGBTQ organizations and advocates issued statements on Monday blasting Trump’s vice president pick.

“Donald Trump has been a bully for years — and his pick of MAGA clone JD Vance is a reminder that nothing has changed. This is anything but a unity ticket,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said.

“We are not simply choosing between two campaigns. We are choosing between two fundamentally different visions of America. One, with Trump and MAGA ‘yes man’ JD Vance at the helm, where our rights and freedoms are under siege. And the other, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way, where we are advancing toward freedom and equality for all,” she said.

“Everything is at stake and the contrast could not be clearer. We must defeat Trump, Vance, and their brand of chaos and division, and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.”

In a press release, HRC listed some of the ways in which Vance has denigrated LGBTQ people.

GLAAD, meanwhile, has a lengthy entry for Vance in the GLAAD Accountability Project. Positions, statements, and actions by Trump’s running mate that were noted by the two organizations include:

  • His endorsement of the “groomer” slur against Democrats for their support of LGBTQ people,
  • His statement “strongly disagree[ing]” that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination,
  • His opposition to the Equality Act, which would federalize and codify LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,
  • His extreme anti-choice views, including opposition to exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest and opposition to IVF,
  • His introduction of a bill to charge healthcare providers with a felony for providing medically necessary health care to transgender youth,
  • His statement that he would have voted “no” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex couples and was supported by a dozen GOP senators,
  • His defense of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for appearing at a white supremacist conference with host Nick Fuentes, who has spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and
  • His claim, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that Biden was risking war with Russia because President Putin doesn’t believe in trans rights.
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Politics

FBI investigates failed assassination attempt on Donald Trump

LGBTQ groups have condemned the shooting that took place in Pa.

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Former President Donald Trump is shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania (Screen capture via CNN)

Authorities are investigating a failed assassination attempt against former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday in Butler, Pa., where a bullet pierced the ear of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

One attendee was killed, along with the suspected shooter. Two others were critically injured in the attack.

The gunman was identified as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, a registered Republican from Bethel Park, Pa., who gave to Democratic donation platform ActBlue in January 2021.

“I want to thank The U.S. Secret Service, and all of law enforcement, for their rapid response on the shooting that just took place in Butler, Pennsylvania,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

Former first lady Melania Trump wrote on Sunday that “When I watched that violent bullet strike my husband, Donald, I realized my life, and Barron’s life, were on the brink of devastating change.”

“A monster who recognized my husband as an inhuman political machine attempted to ring out Donald’s passion — his laughter, ingenuity, love of music, and inspiration,” she wrote.

President Joe Biden was scheduled to receive a briefing on Sunday at the White House with homeland security and law enforcement officials while the Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee said it would be investigating the assassination attempt and had asked U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle to testify at a hearing on July 22.

“I’ve been thoroughly briefed by all the agencies in the federal government as to the situation, based on what we know now,” Biden said in remarks from Rehoboth Beach, Del., just after the assassination attempt on Saturday night.

“I have tried to get a hold of Donald,” the president said, “He’s with his doctors.” (The two would talk later on Saturday.)

“There is no place in America for this kind of violence,” Biden said. “It’s sick. It’s sick. It’s one of the reasons why we have to unite this country. We cannot allow for this to be happening. We cannot be like this. We cannot condone this.” 

“We are shocked by tonight’s apparent assassination attempt on President Trump in Pennsylvania and relieved that he is safe and in good condition,” Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran said on X.

“Our prayers are with President Trump, his family, and our country while we wait to learn further details,” he said. “We are also praying for the family of the innocent bystander who was killed. Our movement will not be deterred.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said on X, “Political violence has no place in America. The attack at today’s rally in PA is an affront to our democracy, and our thoughts are with the former president and all those affected. As a nation, we must unite to condemn political violence in all its forms.”

The National LGBTQ Task Force shared a statement on Instagram:

“Politically motivated violence is unacceptable and has no place in our democratic process. No matter our differences or disagreements, we must all be of one voice in condemning the use of violence as a political statement as we prepare for the upcoming elections.

“We understand that yesterday – and every day- so many in our communities are targeted and live in fear as the political and cultural climates become ever more hostile.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force will continue to work for the safety of our communities and policies and advocate for legislation that protects us. We hope this will motivate and energize all parties to pass federal gun safety laws.”

Congressional leaders from both parties also issued statements condemning political violence.

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Politics

Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

“On July 5, President Trump posted on Truth Social disavowing Project 2025 and officials on the campaign had been saying the same for months,” Moran added. “Those who continue to conflate that private think-tank manifesto with the official RNC Platform or the President’s own policy portfolio, Agenda 47, are knowingly deceiving voters which shows a level of desperation leading them to lie rather than dealing with the reality at hand.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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