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Democratic 2020 hopefuls tout LGBTQ plans at town hall

Democratic 2020 hopefuls tout LGBTQ plans at town hall
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Nine Democratic presidential hopefuls promoted their plans to push for LGBTQ rights at a CNN/Human Rights Campaign town hall on Thursday evening.

The forum touched on a number of issues of interest to the LGBTQ community, including the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to block discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

A number of Democratic presidential contenders have pledged to push Congress to pass the legislation, which the House approved in May. Candidates underscored that push during the forum Thursday night, dubbed, “Equality in America.”

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“I’m going to be blunt; we’ve got to have some more Democrats in the Senate,” said Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat a Biden administration should look like Overnight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls MORE (D-Mass.), emphasizing the importance of a Democratic majority to pass the legislation. Warren has risen near the top of the crowded primary field in recent polls.

“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.”

The debate also comes as the Supreme Court is split over whether gay and transgender people are protected under federal workplace discrimination laws after hearing oral arguments in a number of cases on the matter.

"[I] stand in solidarity with all of the folks who are fighting for equality in those three cases. And I, like many people here, sat in that United States Supreme Court during the arguments where I refused to defend Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in California," said Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump fights for battleground Arizona Biden to air 90-minute radio programs targeting Black voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's big battleground | Trump and Harris hit the trail in Arizona | Turnout surges among new voters MORE (D-Calif.), another candidate at the forum.

"So I know all too well what happens in the United States Supreme Court and what must happen in terms of fighting for equality. We did it before. As president, I will do it again," she added. 

Candidates also addressed the recent surge in violence against members of the LGBTQ community, in particular against trans women of color.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.) called the violence a "national emergency" and, citing his proposed “Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacy,” pledged to appoint a secretary of Education who he said would work to protect all children.

Protesters later interrupted the forum shortly after South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegWhat a Biden administration should look like Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE, who is openly gay, took the stage to draw attention to recent murders of trans individuals.

"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," he said.

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The presidential hopefuls were also pressed about how they would combat HIV/AIDS under their health care proposals.

“We have to make sure that there is no ability for hospitals and/or any health care provider to discriminate based upon whether or not you have HIV or whether or not you are gay or lesbian or transgender,” said former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings MORE.

Harris honed in on the racial disparities in treating HIV/AIDS, and vowed to “pay attention to who has access, who has the ability, who has the resources to benefit from all that is available to prevent, right, or to mitigate the effects.”

A number of candidates slammed the Trump administration's policies on Thursday night, hours after releasing their plans ahead of the forum aimed at promoting LGBTQ equality.

Buttigieg specifically criticized the Trump administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military and accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE of threatening trans service members’ lives.

"The transgender military ban is an outrage against the willingness of service members to put their lives on the line for this country and they are having their lives threatened by a president who refused to serve when it was his turn,” Buttigieg said.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) also made news after he declared that religious institutions should lose tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.

"There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said.

However, Booker declined to give a yes or no answer when pressed on the issue earlier in the town hall.

“I’m not saying, because I know this is a long legal battle. I’m not dodging your question. I’m saying I believe fundamentally that discrimination is discrimination,” Booker said.

Other candidates that participated in the town hall included Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharTrump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Start focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-Minn.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerLate donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls Trump leads Biden in Texas by 4 points: poll MORE.