April 17, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Everything You Need to Know About Tonight’s LGBTQ Town Hall w/ Democratic Presidential Candidates

It’s showtime, folks! Tonight is the LGBTQ Town Hall featuring Democratic presidential candidates answering all things queer. Human Rights Campaign and CNN are teaming up to produce this program running from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Candidates will take questions from audience members and CNN journalists regarding specific concerns for LGBTQ equality and safety. 

CNN’s Dana Bash, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon and Nia-Malika Henderson will moderate the event, which will take place at The Novo in Los Angeles. Participants are: Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro and Tom Steyer.

The Pride LA spoke with Dr. Karla Jay at Pace University in New York City to get her expert opinion on tonight’s event. Check it out:  

Can you introduce yourself?

I am Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies at Pace University, where I also started the Queer Studies Minor.  I have penned 10 books, including Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation.  I co-edited Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation almost 50 years ago. I was an early member of the Gay Liberation Front (1969) and a co-founder of Radicalesbians (the famous Lavender Menace action, 1970).  With GLF, I was a Grand Marshal of the 2019 NYC Pride March, and was also the Grand Marshal of the River City Pride March in Jacksonville, FL (Oct. 2019).

Dr. Karla Jay

How are you feeling about the LGBTQ Town Hall on Thursday?

On one hand, I am very excited that there are two Town Halls about LGBTQ issues this Fall.  This week’s format promises to allow candidates to delve more deeply into their positions and ideas. On the other hand, watching ten candidates over five hours seems like a marathon, not pleasurable viewing.  I doubt more than 10 percent of CNN viewers will do more than watch a couple of candidates they are already interested in or want to know a bit more about. 

What do you expect to see?

I expect that the candidates will lead off with a position statement, all of which will be fairly alike in saying they warmly support our community. I am hopeful that the moderators can move beyond a recitation of each candidate’s past positions.  I would like to see some proposals for concrete actions for the future.

What do you think they need to address? Why is HR1777 important?

How will each candidate help to enact an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make sure that discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is banned?  What executive orders will they issue?  Will they allow discrimination in the name of religious freedom? Not only have these issues not been clearly covered, but I can’t recall ANY of the candidates mentioning lesbians as being anything except part of the queer alphabet they have memorized so well.  Since women generally live longer than men and since HIV ravaged so many more men than women in the LGBT communities, I would love to hear them address HR1777, the Ruth and Connie Elder Americans Act of 2019.  “To amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to provide equal treatment of LGBT older individuals, and for other purposes.”   Our elders are a “vulnerable population,” often subject to abuse and denial of services, sometimes in the name of religion. What is their proposed solution? President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made a concerted effort to combat (sometimes deadly) homophobia in other countries.  What steps are the candidates prepared to take to stop the persecution and murder of LGBTQ individuals in other countries?  Will the American flag fly at all U.S. embassies during Pride?  Will 10% of our ambassadors be LGBTQI?

What do you want to see happen regarding family planning rights for the LGBTQ+ community?

Only three states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination against prospective LGBTQ foster parents and 10 states actively allow discrimination. I would like to see the government remove funding from any adoption or foster parent agency that discriminates against any prospective parent. It’s not going to happen, but I want to hear candidates actually say that they think we are just as capable of raising wonderful children as heterosexuals. I would like to hear them say that trans-people should be able to adopt and foster.

How do we stop the persecution and murder of LGBTQ+ individuals, especially Black Trans Women?

It is difficult to stop murder of any sort in a country with so many armed and angry right-wing white men. Most of the candidates are for some form of gun control, but I would like to see them promise to prosecute homophobic and trans-phobic murderers to the full extent of the law.  And how about sending some federal marshals into schools to free up the restrooms and enable equal access for trans students (the way that the federal government helped racial integration of schools)? How about a special initiative to offer education and job training and then—yes, good jobs!—to trans women of color?  I’m sure the murder rate would drop.

Who would you want to see representing the LGBTQ+ community as a lifetime appointed federal judge?

Love this question!  First of all, I agree with Andy Humm that we should pack the courts, even if we have to expand the number of Supremes and other judges.  If the Senate is still held by Republicans, would the candidates declare a “national emergency” and fill the seats? There have been at least 12 out state supreme court justices, 10 of whom are still serving, and all of them are from blue states, so let’s invite all of them to be on the federal bench.  Each one already has more experience that many of the Federalists appointed by Trump. Also at the top of my list would be Roberta A. Kaplan, Edie Windsor’s lawyer.  We also have plenty of talented attorneys at Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Why is it important for folks to watch this Town Hall?

Our chosen families, our jobs, our educations, our right to weddings and wedding cakes, our right to live where and how we want, and perhaps our very lives are at stake! If you are among the very privileged with a private plane to scoot you off to a friendlier political clime, you can ignore the goings on. But for the 99 percent of us who are less privileged, we cannot afford to ignore the current race.  If you cannot live without your queer life or don’t want to, tune in.

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