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Democratic Presidential Primary Candidates To Address LGBTQ Issues


Tonight, 10 Democrats who are running for president will take part in a presidential forum focused exclusively on LGBTQ issues. They include former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, among others. This event is being co-sponsored by The Advocate magazine. And The Advocate's editor-in-chief Zach Stafford is on the line with me now.

Good morning, Zach.

ZACH STAFFORD: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

KING: So you're one of the moderators for this event tonight. What are the top issues that you want to focus on that you want to bring up?

STAFFORD: Yeah. So tonight, we are really wanting to use this event - it's the first one of its kind in almost 12 years. In the past 12 years, things have radically changed for LGBTQ Americans so much. I mean, 12 years ago, President Obama wasn't openly supporting same-sex marriage. So we're in a very different time.

And tonight, the questions are really interested in how these candidates, who all, you know, believe in same-sex marriage and believe in lots of other LGBTQ rights, into seeing how they are thinking about queer people and all their policies, whether it's immigration, health care, education. A lot of tonight's going to be focused on, where do we find queer people in the things you talk about every single day?

KING: Oh, that's interesting. You point out that the advocate describes all of the candidates as strong or reliable allies of the LGBTQ community. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of course, is openly gay. Do you see any big distinctions between any of their positions?

STAFFORD: Not too many on major, major issues. You know, they all believe in, you know, allowing trans people to fight in the military again. They believe in LGBTQ protection. But I think what people are going to be really interested in and thinking tonight is about, where do LGBTQ people fall in their priorities when they first enter office?

How are they thinking about us in issues where they may not be talking about us a lot, so, you know, asylum-seekers, thinking about trans folks fleeing danger in Central America, How are they going to ensure that they find safety in America? These are conversations that will come up a lot.

And some candidates don't have the best history, you know. Tulsi Gabbard will be there. She notoriously was not for same-sex marriage in 2005 and took some time to change. So people are going to be interested in seeing her evolution and what that looks like. So it's interesting because, you know, 12 years ago, the LGBTQ acceptance of every candidate was, you know, not as good as it is now.

So now we can have really interesting conversations around, you know, in your health care plan, how are gender reassignments or gender confirmation surgeries going to be thought of? Are they even being thought of? Because we know that you think that love is love and that LGBTQ people deserve equality - these really broad strokes. But when you think about our day-to-day lives, how do we fit into that narrative?

KING: I want to ask you about this really interesting thing that happened this week. Mayor Pete Buttigieg made a comment on "The Clay Cane Show" on SiriusXM. Let me play that for you.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: I can't even read the LGBT media anymore 'cause it's all too gay, not gay enough, wrong kind of gay. Like, all I know is that life became a lot easier when I just started allowing myself to be myself. And I'll let other people write up whether I'm too this or too that.

KING: Are you going to ask him about that tonight?

STAFFORD: (Laughter) Currently, I'm not planning to talk to him in depth about that. I mean, we've talked a lot about it on social media the past 24 hours. Mayor Pete has been in the magazine, and when he was in our magazine, he was not even asked this type of question to that extent. And what he's speaking to are actually articles that weren't even in LGBTQ media.

So, you know, I appreciate that he is sharing his thoughts on kind of, like, media 'cause, you know, as a fellow queer person, we're all deserving to talk about media representation. But it is saddening to be kind of misrepresented in that because our magazine did not write this thing. So someone else...

KING: Fair enough. Very briefly, Senator Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang will not be there tonight. Did they tell you why?

STAFFORD: No, they have not shared too much. I know that they have schedule conflicts, and they just left it at that, so we haven't heard much more on that. But we would love if they magically showed up tonight.


KING: Maybe. Zach Stafford, editor-in-chief of The Advocate, will be moderating tonight's LGBTQ presidential forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Thanks so much.

STAFFORD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.