Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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10 LGBTQ+ Questions for Mike Pence and Kamala Harris for VP Debate

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence

Longtime LGBTQ+ ally Kamala Harris and equally longtime LGBTQ+ adversary Mike Pence will face off in the highly anticipated vice-presidential debate tonight in Salt Lake City.

The 90-minute debate, taking place at the University of Utah, will air on all major broadcast networks and cable news channels beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern. Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief, will moderate. It is the only debate scheduled between Pence and Harris.

The debate will be divided into nine 10-minute segments, each dealing with a single topic, but the topics have not been announced. It is likely that one of them will be the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and for which Donald Trump and several members of his administration have tested positive. Both Pence and Harris have tested negative so far, but they will be separated by plexiglass barriers as a safety measure.

Given their records on LGBTQ+ issues, The Advocate has come up with some questions we’d like to see asked of the vice president and of Joe Biden’s running mate.

For Pence: While running for Congress in 2000, you said funds for HIV prevention should be directed to programs aimed at changing behavior. Was this an endorsement of conversion therapy, as some observers have interpreted it to be?

For Pence: How can you justify the many anti-LGBTQ+ actions over your career, including signing a “license to discriminate” bill as Indiana’s governor, opposing LGBTQ+ rights measures as a congressman, and joining in the attacks on this population as Trump’s vice president?

For Harris: Biden has said he would make passage and signing of the Equality Act a priority in the first 100 days of his presidency. How would you help him mobilize bipartisan support for the act?

For Harris: You have said that as California’s attorney general, you worked behind the scenes to change the state’s policy against providing gender-confirmation procedures for prisoners. Could you describe how you went about this?

For Pence: Your wife, Karen Pence, teaches at a private Christian school that discriminates against LGBTQ+ students and staff. How can it be appropriate for any member of the president’s or vice president’s family to be connected with an institution that endorses discrimination?

For Harris: You have a background in law enforcement, having been a prosecutor and a state attorney general. What steps do you support for reforming law enforcement to eliminate police brutality against Black Americans and other groups that are often overpoliced, including LGBTQ+ people?

For Pence: As a member of Congress, you supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. This week two Supreme Court justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, said they would like to see the court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling overturned. Do you still support action in either Congress or the courts to ban same-sex marriage?

For Harris: How would you address the epidemic of violence against transgender Americans, especially women of color?

For Pence: When you were governor of Indiana, you were criticized for your handling of an HIV outbreak in the state, and the Trump-Pence administration, in which you have led the Coronavirus Task Force, has been criticized for its response to this pandemic. Is there anything you wish you had done differently in either case, and why should we trust your administration to deal with COVID-19 going forward?

For Harris: Early in your campaign, you supported expanding Americans’ access to health insurance and care through a “Medicare for All” plan sponsored by the federal government; now you favor maintaining a role for private insurers, as Biden does. Why is this a good idea for delivering coverage to the nation, and especially to populations that are disproportionately affected by lack of access, including many segments of the LGBTQ+ community?

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