LGBTQ Questions Get Lackluster Responses at Democratic Town Hall

The Democratic presidential candidates didn’t cover any new ground on the issues.

Candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the October 13, 2015, Democratic debate.

Candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the October 13, 2015, Democratic debate.

“A bag of stale potato chips” could best describe last night’s responses to LGBTQ issues at the Democratic presidential candidates’ town hall in Iowa – dry, corny, and salty.

The three candidates – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley – responded to various economic, social, and foreign policy questions raised at Drake University in Des Moines. CNN’s Chris Cuomo covered the live event, which was pretty much a primary debate except with audience questions.

Dry was the response from O’Malley in regards to a question raised by Brian Carlson, a Drake student, about what he would do to address LGBTQ equality beyond marriage equality.

The former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland basically said “everything in [his] power,” and gave a few fun facts about Maryland, including how in 2012 it became one of the first states to enact marriage equality and how it has non-discrimination gender identity laws.

Corny was the response from Clinton, whose constant refrain was that she would fight for various rights (such as gay rights) and address various forms of inequality (including homophobia).

The former secretary of state boasted about her advocacy without naming specific examples. (She recently earned a major endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign, the leading LGBT advocacy organization in America.)

Which finally brings me to salty. Sanders was taken to task for his bitter remarks about the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood (which also recently endorsed Clinton).

Calling them “establishment” organizations on a previous television program, the junior U.S. senator from Vermont responded to an audience member’s question on those statements as him “not saying it well.” He followed up by touting his “100 percent record” on the issues of those organizations, but offered nothing new outside of that.

Overall, the town hall was nothing more than a very light snack on LGBTQ issues in general. What was missing from the discussion were meatier topics such as the Equality Act currently pending in Congress, non-discrimination employment bills that are hitting a wall in various states (including Pennsylvania), and LGBTQ homeless youth rates climbing in major cities (including Philadelphia).

But those substantive issues are not the kind of talking points that serve as low-hanging fruit for the candidates to engage these Iowa caucuses. Let’s hope they finally make it to the main debate stage this fall.