Biden-Trump debate slammed for failing to address LGBTQ+ issues: ‘Enormous slight to our community’

US President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia

Campaign groups have criticised both Joe Biden and Donald Trump for failing to address LGBTQ+ issues during the first presidential debate. 

During the televised debate in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday (27 June), the two men vying to be in the White House for the next four years discussed abortion, election fraud, immigration and foreign policy.

LGBTQ+ issues, however, were missing.

Former president Trump set the tone on abortion rights, wildly claiming that Democrats are so “radical” that they will “take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth”.

Trump also took several shots at undocumented immigrants, claiming “they’re killing our people… they’re killing our citizens at a level we’ve never seen before”.

President Biden responded by saying: “Every single thing he said was a lie.”

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Activists decried the fact that any discussion of LGBTQ+ rights were missing, at a time when trans rights, rising hate crime and gender-affirming care are issues facing the US.

‘An enormous slight to our community

Ahead of the debate, Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of LGBTQ+ charity GLAAD, said it would be an “enormous slight to our community”, if queer issues went unaddressed.

“Our community is deeply affected by where these candidates stand,” Ellis told The Hill. “We have to be a part of this conversation.”

She wanted to hear both Trump and Biden answer questions on marriage equality, LGBTQ+ hate crime and extremism, gender-affirming healthcare and the Equality Act.

Brandon Wolf, the Human Rights Campaign’s national press secretary, added that there needed to be a “substantive conversation” on LGBTQ+ rights during the 90-minute debate on CNN.

“Make no mistake, equality is a winning issue,” he said. “A vast majority of people in this country support an America that treats people with dignity and respect, they support an America that prevents people from experiencing discrimination and harm simply because of who they are.

“That is where the American people largely are, and I hope we get an opportunity on that stage to see the contrast between these two candidates.”

Biden and Trump have been shown to hold widely differing views on the LGBTQ+ community.

Republican Trump promised at a campaign event in 2023 that he would restore his ban on trans people serving in the military if he is re-elected, a policy that was reversed by Biden in 2021.

Trump has also pledged to ban trans student athletes from competing on the team that matches their gender, as well as add new restrictions to gender-affirming care and cut federal funding for schools that are inclusive of transgender students. 

Democrat Biden, on the other hand, has stood up for queer rights, just this week issuing a pardon to thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans convicted under historical discriminatory laws.

The president has not been able to safeguard all LGBTQ+ rights, however, with several Republican states clamping down on gender-affirming care and drag shows, and removing LGBTQ+ books in from school libraries.

In December, it was reported that more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ laws had been introduced in 2023, with several others added in the first few weeks of this year.

The second, and final, presidential debate is scheduled for 10 September.

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