On June 26th 2015, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling that essentially recognized same-sex couples as equal to heterosexual couples in the eyes of the law. No more DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). No more civil unions which essentially made gays equal but different in the eyes of our federal government. Equality had arrived for the gay community. But that ruling certainly didn’t end the struggle for the LGBT community in this country. However, if you’ve watched the first two debates of the Presidential race stretch run, you’d think we had equal rights with zero discriminatory issues for the last 100 years.
Two debates have been held over the last 8 days. In those two debates, not one issue has been raised that is relevant to the LGBTQ community and the struggles we still face in the year 2016. When the first debate passed and I saw a few murmurs of discontent among my friends in the community, I shrugged it off. “Calm down.” I thought to myself. “We have three presidential debates and one debate between the Vice-Presidential candidates.” With the VP debate held on Tuesday night in Virginia, I felt pretty confident that we’d see some sort of reference to the LGBT community. Especially given the stances taken by staunch social conservative Mike Pence. And while a little bit of religion was injected into the debate in the latter stages, with the topic of abortion being mentioned, yet again the LGBT issue was left untouched by debate moderator Elaine Quijano. With that said, I thought she controlled the conversation and handled the management of the candidates pretty well.
Ultimately, the fact that we are halfway through the debate schedule without a single mention of an LGBT issue is disconcerting. Meanwhile, we’ve heard about Miss Universe contestants, stamina of candidates and Rosie O’Donnell. Granted, only one of those issues was raised by a moderator. But in the case of the VP debate on Tuesday night, it’s inconceivable to me that you can go 90 minutes with Indiana Governor Mike Pence sitting just feet away from you, and not ask a single question regarding his stance on homosexuality or protections for those in the LGBT community. Keep in mind that both Pence and Senator Tim Kaine are just a heartbeat away from the Presidency come January. Doesn’t their views on LGBT issues matter? Doesn’t the views of the candidate they are running with matter? Apparently not enough to warrant a single question or mention in two debates.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence has quite the track record when it comes to opposing the LGBT community. Start with the fact that he ran a conservative think tank that put out anti-gay articles. This is the same Mike Pence that was okay with using HIV/AIDS monies to fund conversion therapy. Yeah, the old conversion therapy advocate. “We’ll just push the gay out of you if we talk to you enough.” Frankly, an hour in a room alone with Mike Pence could be enough to wish me adapting a heterosexual life. Remember the Indiana Religious Liberty Bill? Yep. That’s loaded with anti-gay rhetoric too. Back in 2014, he tried to ban same-sex marriage. That didn’t go so well for him. Mike Pence on gays in the military? Nope. Not under his watch. Despite all of these “knowns” as it relates to a man that is one heartbeat away from being the leader of the free world, not a single question on Tuesday not was raised that would force him to address his stance on these issues.
So that leaves two debates for the moderators to raise the topics like those being confronted by the trans community in North Carolina. 21 states have some form of religious freedom acts which essentially embrace the idea of discriminating against the LGBT community under the guise of protecting religious expression. In case anybody forgot, June 12th, 2016 saw a massacre in Orlando that took the lives of those in the LGBT community along with those that support the community. This idea that seems to be embraced within the “debate moderator world” that LGBT issues aren’t important enough to be addressed is perplexing to me. That takes me to the next Presidential Debate in Nevada on Sunday night.
The moderators for the 2nd debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz. If anybody could understand the sensitivities involved with neglecting the topic of LGBT civil rights it would be the openly-gay Cooper. After first seeming to avoid gay topics after coming out (probably out of concern for being viewed as having bias on the issue), Cooper has become more comfortable in addressing LGBT concerns. Just look on YouTube for his interview with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi where he held her feet to the fire for her stance against gay-marriage. After the Orlando shootings, you would have thought Bondi was the biggest champion for LGBT rights. Cooper had no problem dragging her onto the carpet to face her past views. Will Cooper be the one to address the Rainbow elephant in the room on Sunday night? Maybe he leaves it to Raddatz to tackle. Either way, we’re just two debates away from voters having to decide whom to vote for. And for the LGBT community, the avoidance of LGBT-related questions hasn’t made their choice any clearer.
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