Stella Maxwell
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10 LGBTQ+ Questions We'd Like to See Asked in Tonight's Debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump

The first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump will take place Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern in Cleveland. Moderator Chris Wallace has announced the topics he wants to cover in the 90-minute debate — the two men’s records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, the integrity of the election, and racial issues.

But The Advocate has some suggestions for LGBTQ+ topics to be included, some of which could easily fall under the category of the two candidates’ records. Here are 10 questions we’d like to see asked Tuesday or in the other two presidential debates, which will take place October 15 and 22. We’d also love to see the subject addressed in the vice-presidential debate between reliable ally Kamala Harris and longtime adversary Mike Pence October 7, but right now we’ll concentrate on Biden and Trump.

For Biden: In 1996, as a U.S. senator, you voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal government recognition to same-sex marriages and therefore prevented couples in those marriages from accessing a host of benefits. In 2012, as vice president, you became a strong supporter of marriage equality. How did your evolution on this issue come about?

For Trump: You’ve barred transgender Americans from joining the armed forces, in part, you’ve said, because of the costs associated with gender-affirming health care. But a Rand Corp. study estimated those costs at $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually, when the Defense Department spends $80 million a year on erectile dysfunction medications — and you received a federal income tax refund of $73 million in 2010. How can you possibly justify the ban based on the comparatively small expense of care?

For both: What would you do to address the epidemic of violence against transgender Americans, particularly Black trans women?

For Biden: You’ve said you would make passage of the Equality Act a priority in your first 100 days as president. What’s your strategy for marshaling bipartisan support for the act, given that Democrats may not control of both houses of Congress?

For Trump: In 2000, when you were considering a run for president with the Reform Party, you told The Advocate, “I like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation.” The Equality Act would do just that, along with adding gender identity, and amending other federal civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act. If you liked the idea then, why do you oppose the Equality Act now?

For both: You have both pledged to end the HIV epidemic within a few years — Biden by 2025, Trump by 2030. What practical steps would you take to make this happen, and in the general area of health care, how would you assure that all Americans can receive affordable, high-quality care?

For Trump: You claim to have been a good president for LGBTQ+ Americans. How can you say this when, in addition to the transgender military ban, your administration has issued a plethora of orders allowing discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, in health care, adoption and foster care, homeless services, and more, often under the guise of “religious freedom”?

For Biden: You have pledged to have an inclusive administration. Could you name some LGBTQ+ people you would consider for Cabinet positions or federal judgeships, including the Supreme Court?

For both: LGBTQ+ young people face a wide range of problems, and they have disproportionate rates of suicide and homelessness. What would you do to address this crisis?

For both: Conversion therapy, which attempts to turn LGBTQ+ people straight or cisgender, has been discredited and deemed harmful by every major medical and mental health organization, and its use on minors has been banned by many states, cities, and counties. Would you consider a national ban on such therapy, at least where minors are concerned, and possibly classify it as a form of consumer fraud, as some lawmakers have proposed?

Biden has gone into some of these issues, though by no means all, in an LGBTQ+ equality platform, which is available online; Trump, not so much, as he has released no platform on LGBTQ+ topics. No matter what, it would do the nation a service to have the candidates answer these questions before a national television audience.

You can watch tonight’s debate on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, MSNBC, and CSPAN, listen to it on NPR, and stream it online. Check back on advocate.com and @TheAdvocateMag on Twitter for live coverage.

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