The LGBTQ Presidential Forum — cohosted by The Advocate, GLAAD, One Iowa and The Gazette — finally recentered the presidential debates on LGBTQ issues, which have been largely absent from previous events. Hosted by Pose's Angelica Ross, the Forum featured conversations with Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Pennsylvania representative Joe Sestak, U.S Senator Elizabeth Warren, and author Marianne Williamson.
Below, see some of the highlights, and revisit the Forum in full in the embedded video.
Angelica Ross made history as the first transgender person to host a presidential forum. And the Pose and AHS: 1984 star had many memorable moments of her airtime. She encouraged viewers to call out the missing presidential candidates from the Forum (ahem, Bernie Sanders) and urged the crowd to vote at the conclusion of the event.
Joe Biden told a moderator that she was "wrong" in her assertion that the 1994 crime bill he supported "increased incarceration rates and promoted more aggressive policing policies and tactics."
"Let’s get something straight," Biden said. You’re wrong about the act." However, in reality, fact-checking source PolitiFact said Biden's assertion that 1994 crime bill "did not generate mass incarceration" was "half true." "In the strictest sense, the law did not launch the massive rise in the prison population," the fact-checking source concluded. "But it was in keeping with pre-existing trends at the state level, and in a limited way, provided funds to expand and keep policies in place that would increase the number of people behind bars."
Afterward, moderator Lyz Lenz tweeted that Biden called her “a real sweetheart” after their conversation, and he also received some accusations of sexism on social media for the way he addressed her.
Ben Carson reportedly made transphobic remarks at a recent Housing and Urban Development meeting — and the act was slammed across the board at the LGBTQ Presidential Forum, most notably by Pete Buttigieg and Julián Castro. In his interview, Buttigieg promised equitable housing policies and stated that if he had a cabinet secretary who spoke about trans people the way Housing Secretary Ben Carson did this week, "that would be their last day in federal service."
Sen. Kamala Harris answered a question about having denied gender-affirmation surgery to transgender inmates when she was California's attorney general, saying that she worked "behind the scenes" to change the policy. "When that case came up, I had clients, and one of them was the California Department of Corrections. It was their policy. When I learned about what they were doing, behind the scenes, I got them to change the policy,” Harris said.
Karamo Brown made a surprise appearance at the LGBTQ Forum to slam the Trump administration. The speech came after the Queer Eye star incited controversy for calling Dancing with the Stars contestant Sean Spicer “a good guy.” "It is no secret that President Trump and his administration are not friends of the LGBTQ community. It’s not just Donald Trump who is the problem, it’s the people surrounding him," Brown said. "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," he continued. "We need to be loud and proud. Tonight is all about giving us the tools to let our friends and family know what is at stake."
Writer and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson defended her stances on HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. She was asked by The Advocate's editor-in-chief, Zach Stafford whether she believed — as has been reported — whether she believed AIDS could be cured from positive thoughts. "I never said anything like that," Williamson said. "There's nothing in my books like that." Williamson said the narrative that she believed AIDS could be cured psychically were part of "vicious smears." She also defended her record of establishing centers that cared for and fed victims of the AIDS crisis, including Project Angel Food, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Buttigieg, who served in the Navy reserve, reminded the audience of the eighth anniversary of the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal and promised to end President Trump's ban on trans military service. The mayor also promised the sign the Equality Act and to appoint "an administration and a judiciary that understands that American freedom is the freedom to be who you are and love who you love."
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard denied that her commitment to LGBTQ Americans was "only skin deep" at the Forum, when asked by an audience member why LGBTQ voters should “trust” her, given her past antigay views. She cited to her record in Congress and the military as proof of her evolution. "My record speaks for itself," Gabbard said. "You mentioned by service in the military, and throughout that service, I had the chance to serve alongside LGBT Americans and to get to know them. And in the most extreme circumstances. I knew as we were deployed that they would give their life for me and I would give my life for them. We had each other’s backs. There’s no question of that."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren had one of the emotional moments of the evening when she read the names of all of the transgender women of color that had been killed in 2019. "It's time for America to say their names." #TransLivesMatter
Cory Booker surprised moderator Zach Stafford when he picked up The Advocate’s editor in chief during the greeting. A surprised Stafford then delivered a memorable line to the New Jersey senator: “Wow, a man picked me up on national television. That is a first.”