Last night’s first Democratic National Committee (DNC) debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle saw a few wholly unexpected moments—including a number of White House hopefuls answering questions in Spanish and explicitly addressing discrimination and violence against America’s LGBTQ community.
The debate, broadcasted at 9pm ET and moderated by two teams of NBC News panelists, included 10 of the 20 candidates running for the Democratic Party’s primary nod: Bill de Blasio, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Cory Booker, and frontrunner Elizabeth Warren.
There were plenty of notable remarks during the 2 hour-long debate—and a few of those actually centered on issues affecting queer and trans or gender nonconforming Americans. During a discussion about abortion access, Castro—an Obama-era Cabinet member and the only Latinx candidate running for the Democratic Party nomination—clarified that the reproductive health care isn’t just a women’s issue and encompasses transgender people, too.
Admittedly, Castro appears to have fumbled with his wording, claiming that “trans females” also have the right to an abortion. As The Huffington Post notes, he likely meant trans men and nonbinary people who were assigned female at birth.
Julián Castro got a 2,400% spike in Google searches during the #DemDebate.
The ex-housing secretary is getting props for highlighting the transgender community when talking about abortion access and "reproductive justice": pic.twitter.com/QEMzPv72DE
— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 27, 2019
Castro’s insightful commentary on abortion access, immigration issues, and more reportedly earned the politician a staggering 2,400% increase in Google searches post-debate.
The topic of LGBTQ equality came up again when Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, was put on the defensive about her anti-LGBTQ political record. She’s long since apologized for her previous opinions, and at last night’s debate, Gabbard reaffirmed her promise to vote for the Equality Act and defend queer Americans.
I’ve served w/ LGBTQ service members. I know they would give their life for me & I would give my life for them. It is this commitment that I will carry through as POTUS, because there are people who still face discrimination. #TULSI2020 #DemDebate https://t.co/cxwF26gZSC pic.twitter.com/OvcWyoxPgt
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) June 27, 2019
New Jersey lawmaker Cory Booker, too, jumped in to take a moment to recognize the epidemic of violence transgender people—particularly black trans women—face in the United States.
“We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African American trans Americans, and the incredibly high rates of murder right now,” Booker said. “It’s not enough just to be on the Equality Act—I’m an original co-sponsor. We need to have a president that will fight to protect LGBTQ Americans every day.”
Booker on transgender violence: "We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African American trans Americans and the incredibly high rates of murder right now" #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/Bdh0cEgZrI
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 27, 2019
In a statement, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis praised last night’s debate moderators—and this first batch of Democratic presidential hopefuls—for repeatedly bringing queer issues to the table.
“GLAAD commends tonight’s inclusion of LGBTQ issues by debate moderators in this first debate of the 2020 presidential cycle,” Ellis said. “Putting LGBTQ-specific issues front and center stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric and record of the Trump administration, which has put a target on the backs of LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities since the day he took office.”
The second DNC primary debate will air on NBC at 9pm ET this Thursday, June 27. A live broadcast is available to stream for free on NBC News’ website.