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The last presidential debate to include a single question on LGBT+ rights was between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin

Josh Milton October 23, 2020
Sarah Palin and Democrat Joseph Biden walk on stage following their vice presidential debate

Sarah Palin and Democrat Joseph Biden walk on stage following their vice presidential debate on October 2, 2008. (Getty/Paul J Richards)

With the final presidential debate over, neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden have answered a single question on LGBT+ rights throughout the entire debate cycle, according to the CEO of GLAAD Sarah Kate Ellis.

The microphones were not the only thing on mute Thursday night (October 22) at the presidential debate. The fears of an entire community were too.

Despite Donald Trump’s 181 attacks on the LGBT+ community, moderator Kristen Welker failed to ask a single question regarding trans rights, the future of marriage equality under a conservative Supreme Court, or the raft of anti-discrimination protections that have been peeled away over the past four years.

This silence is nothing new, according to right-wing monitoring group Media Matters. No moderator has asked a presidential candidate about LGBT+ issues since 2008, when the late Gwen Ifill asked vice presidential candidates Biden and Sarah Palin three questions on whether they support “granting same-sex benefits to couples” or marriage equality.

Around 600 questions have been levelled across 14 debates throughout the country’s formulaic election cycle since – none on LGBT+ issues.

Final presidential debate sees Trump and Biden spar on racism and coronavirus.

At Thursday night’s debate – which Welker was roundly declared the winner of – the candidates spoke on six topics announced earlier in the week by the Debate Commission.

Biden and Trump discussed at large the pandemic, American families, racism, climate change, national security and leadership.

The tone was markedly more presidential than the first debate, which was marred by continued interruptions and name-calling. Trump’s refusal to let Biden without disruption speak meant that on Thursday, organisers muted microphones during candidates’ opening statements.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump's final sparring match saw LGBT+ rights once agains not spoken about. They haven't since 2008, a top monitoring group warns. (Brendan Smialowski and JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI,JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s final sparring match saw LGBT+ rights once agains not spoken about. They haven’t since 2008, a top monitoring group warns. (Brendan Smialowski/Jim Watson/Getty)

Racism and the pandemic proved the biggest topics of the night, with Trump claiming both the virus was “going away” and that he was “the least racist person in this room”.

Biden reacted incredulously to both claims, attacking Trump as “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”.

“He pours fuel on every single racist fire,” Biden continued. “This guy is a [racial] dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”

Trump’s record on LGBT+ rights.

The Trump administration has in the last four years eroded LGBT+ rights and protections, attempting to reduce trans people to a political target while overseeing an “epidemic” of anti-trans violence.

2020 has been the deadliest year for trans killings since records began. There are still three months left.

Trans rights, in particular, have been taken to with a buzzsaw by the Trump administration, across countless federal departments and programs – defence, housing, health and education.

And in the president’s typical brand of bullish showmanship, he has sought to bulldoze Amy Coney Barrett into the Supreme Court after the passing of liberal stalwart Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump's final sparring match saw LGBT+ rights once agains not spoken about. They haven't since 2008, a top monitoring group warns. (Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
From foreign policy to the healthcare, Donald Trump and Joe Biden sparred on everything but LGBT+ rights during this election season.(Jim Bourg/Getty)

With her judicial values rooted in faith, Republicans have fought tooth and nail to barrel Barrrett into the courts, tipping the conservative bloc over into the majority. Critics fear Barrett’s nomination imperils LGBT+ rights, with both marriage equality and workplace protections having been enacted on fragile majorities.

Barrett has openly refused to say where she stands on LGBT+ rights, but her track record fills the blanks. She has ties to anti-LGBT+ hate groups, was a trustee of thumpingly homophobic Catholic schools (though not a policy-setter), and has pledged to decide cases in the mould of a late justice who dissented on every pro-LGBT+ ruling.

With the election just over a week away, there’s still more to discuss on LGBT+ rights. The Equality Act – a bill which could become the bedrock of equalities law – remains up in air, while surging rates of unemployment and prison numbers, as well as shrivelling rates of home-ownership remain rarely-spoken problems.

More: 2020 US election, Donald Trump, Equality Act, joe biden, LGBT rights, trans rights

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