CNN's LGBTQ Town Hall

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9:36 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Warren says she was wrong to oppose trans prisoner’s surgery appeal

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Elizabeth Warren said on Thursday night that she was wrong, in 2012, to say “I don’t think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars” to pay for a transgender inmate’s gender confirmation surgery.

Asked by Chris Cuomo if she regretted that remark, the Massachusetts senator answered simply, “Yup.”

“It was a bad answer,” she said. “And I believe that everyone is entitled to medical care and medical care they need. And that includes people who are transgender who, it is the time for them to have gender affirming surgery. I just think that’s important.”

It’s not the first time Warren has been asked about the comment. In January, her presidential campaign in a statement to ThinkProgress, spelled out her new position.

“Senator Warren supports access to medically necessary services, including transition-related surgeries,” the campaign said. “This includes procedures taking place at the VA, in the military, or at correctional facilities.”

9:30 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Warren touts power of LGBTQ vote

From CNN's Maeve Reston

Elizabeth Warren tackled the difficult question of how Democrats could achieve the passage of the Equality Act, which has been passed by the Democrat-led House but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, by touting the growing power of the LGBTQ vote.

Keeping it real on the fact that the Equality Act is going nowhere as long as Mitch McConnell is the Senate majority leader, Warren first noted that America is going to have to elect more Democrats to the Senate if they want to see passage. (The legislation would protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in healthcare and many other parts of their life).

“I’m going to be blunt; we’ve got to have some more Democrats in the Senate,” Warren said. “I say that for two reasons, partly because the Democratic Party has made it clear, this is an issue, this is a priority for us. We believe that equal means equal everywhere. I also say it because I want our Republican friends to hear that in the United States Senate. I want them to know that people vote based on LGBTQ issues.”

“So I’m willing to continue to push Mitch McConnell right now,” Warren said. “But my number one goal is to make sure he is not the majority leader come January 2020,” she said to applause.

The Human Rights Campaign estimates that there are now at least 11 million LGBTQ voters across America. They also worked with the data-analytics firm Catalist to identify some 57 million so-called “equality voters” who support an agenda of inclusion. You can read more about their data here:

9:34 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Warren puts “old-fashioned” marriage takes on the rocks

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Elizabeth Warren has a plan for responding to people who come up to her at rallies to say, “my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

The question came from an audience member, channeling a phrase often invoked by marriage equality opponents who, as he put it, describe themselves as “old fashioned.”

“Well, I'm going to assume it's a guy who said that,” Warren deadpanned, “and I'm gonna say, ‘Then just marry one woman. I'm cool with that.”

Then she twisted the knife: “If you can find one."


9:14 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Buttigieg: Religion used to discriminate LGBTQ people "makes God smaller"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Pete Buttigieg said that using faith as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people “makes God smaller” and is an “insult to faith.”

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor often talks about his personal faith -- he is Episcopalian -- and his sexuality. On Thursday, he was asked whether he can point to any teaching in faith that allows “restaurant owners can deny service based on so-called religious liberty.”

“Without telling others how to worship, the Christian tradition that I belong to instructs me to identify with the marginalized and the greatest thing that any of us has to offer is love,” Buttigieg said. “Religious liberty is an important principle in this country and we honor that. It’s the case that any freedom that we honor in this country has limits when it comes to harming other people.”

Buttigieg then reflected on his own view of faith.

“I have to say, when religion is used in that way, to me, it makes God smaller,” he said. “It, to me, is an insult not only to us as LGBTQ people, but I think it’s an insult to faith to believe that it could be used to hurt people in that way.”

9:02 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Buttigieg: "My blood’s not welcome in this country"

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Pete Buttigieg said he would overhaul rules prohibiting gay men who have had sex within the last year from donating blood -- recalling a poignant moment when his office led an annual blood drive.

“I remember the moment when I realized that, unlike most initiatives that I spearhead, I can’t lead by example on this one, because my blood’s not welcome in this country. And it’s not based on science, it’s based on prejudice,” said the South Bend, Indiana, mayor, who is gay.

Buttigieg continued: “So when I’m president, I will direct the FDA to revise the rules based on evidence, based on individual risk factors, and without regard to the prejudice that has driven the current policy.”

9:22 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Pete Buttigieg heralds protesters and acknowledges "epidemic of violence against black trans women"

From CNN's Maeve Reston

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Pete Buttigieg heralded protesters who interrupted his entrance to the CNN Equality Town Hall by calling for greater attention to the violence against transgender women of color.

It was hard to hear exactly what the protesters were shouting, but at least one said. “People are dying,” before they were escorted out. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor opened his remarks by saying that he shared the concerns of protesters, who contended that the press has not paid enough attention to the uptick in violence against black transgender women.

“I do want to acknowledge what these demonstrators were speaking about, which is the epidemic of violence against black trans women in this country right now,” Buttigieg said. “And I believe or would like to believe that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic, and that does include lifting up its visibility and speaking to it.”

Buttigieg added that the protest was a reminder of how much diversity there is within the LGBTQ community.

“I’m very mindful of the fact that my experience as a gay man—as a white gay man—there are dimensions of what it’s like to be a black gay woman that I also do not understand. But I also think the diversity within the LGBTQ-plus community is part of what we have to offer right now.”

The statistics about the level of violence against black transgender women are difficult to measure, but the Human Rights Campaign has closely tracked the incidents and you can read more about recent victims of deadly violence at their website.

In 2018, the Human Rights Campaign tracked the deaths of at least 26 people; so far this year they say at least 19 transgender people have either been fatally shot or killed.


8:56 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Buttigieg: "There is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Pete Buttigieg responded to a question about the struggle to be “the right kind of gay” on Thursday by saying directly that “there is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans.”

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, came out in 2015 and is the first top tier gay presidential candidate. Buttigieg, as the questioner noted, has faced questions about whether he is an “an adequate representative of the queer community.”

Buttigieg said on Thursday that his coming out experience – one that happened later in life than many others and when he was already mayor – is different, making him “very mindful of the fact that my experience as a gay man, but as a white, cisgendered gay man is there are dimensions, for example, of what it’s like to be a black gay woman that I also do not understand."

That diversity in the LGBTQ community, Buttigieg said, is a strength:

“Our country is so torn apart or so fragmented, and here we have the LGBTQ plus world that is everywhere. We are in every state, every community. Whether folks realize it or not, we’re in every family. And that means we can also have the power to build bridges,” Buttigieg said. “And when somebody’s weighing whether to come out or just coming to terms with who they are, it’s really important for them to know that they’re going to be accepted.”

Buttigieg added: “There is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans, and I hope that our own community, even as we struggle to define what our identity means, defines it in way that lets everybody know that they belong among us.”

8:56 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Buttigieg vows to sign Equality Act if elected president

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, vowed to fight for the Equality Act, which he said is needed to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Buttigieg went on to say he would sign an Equality Act to protect LGBTQ people if he's elected president.

"I will fight for that, and I will sign it the moment that it hits my desk," he said.

Buttigieg said the principle of equality is "being tested right now in the courts under the Civil Rights Act."

Why this matters: The US Supreme Court heard this week a trio of cases revolving around a federal statute, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits job discrimination "because of sex."

After two hours of often-testy questioning on Tuesday, there was no clear majority to side with two gay men fired from their jobs, as a skydiving instructor and county child welfare services coordinator, and a transgender woman who lost her position as a funeral home director.

The only one in the five-justice conservative wing who expressed some interest aligning with the four liberals was Justice Neil Gorsuch. Yet while Gorsuch said it might be "close" that Title VII's text covers gay or transgender individuals, he worried about the "massive social upheaval" that could come from such a ruling.

9:05 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019

Biden: "There are certain things we can't tolerate"

Analysis by CNN's Brandon Tensley

Former Vice President Joe Biden didn't pull any punches on Thursday when it came to how he'd engage with foreign countries that discriminate against their LGBTQ citizens.

"I would in fact curtail foreign assistance to countries who in fact engage in this kind of behavior," the Democratic presidential candidate said, having noted earlier that, if elected, his administration would create a special office devoted specifically to promoting LGBTQ rights around the world.

Biden also recalled how he's been an outspoken critic of, for instance, Chechnya, a conservative part of Russia that's made headlines in recent years for its anti-gay purges.

When CNN's Anderson Cooper asked about Saudi Arabia, Biden's answer was jaw-droppingly crass.

"They have very little redeeming cultural value," Biden said, making it a point to pivot to the murkiness of culture and how it can sometimes be used as a cudgel against vulnerable populations.

"Look, there are certain things that we can't tolerate," he said. "Culture is never a rationale for pain, never a rationale. It really isn't."