CEDAR RAPIDS — At least four Democratic presidential hopefuls will participate next month in a Cedar Rapids forum that will be the first venue where the candidates specifically discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues.
Initially hosted by One Iowa, The Advocate and The Gazette, the Sept. 20 forum at Coe College now includes GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, as a partner.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, retired Adm. Joe Sestak and author Marianne Williamson have confirmed their participation. All Democratic candidates actively campaigning in Iowa are being invited.
Each candidate will be asked to present a vision on LGBTQ issues and take questions from moderators. GLAAD plans to livestream the forum internationally.
“LGBTQ issues and the LGBTQ community have been largely left out of the 2020 presidential primary conversation so far, and this forum will bring these important topics to a national audience for the first time in this election cycle,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive officer of GLAAD, said in a statement.
In a news release, GLAAD and One Iowa, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, said exit polls in the 2016 presidential election showed LGBTQ voters accounted for about 6 percent of those who voted, making the LGBTQ vote particularly important in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.
“We’re excited to have GLAAD on board as we shine a light on the lives and needs of LGBTQ people living in the heartland,” One Iowa Interim Executive Director Courtney Reyes said in a statement. “The overarching narrative that LGBTQ people in the U.S. live in urban coastal areas ignores the millions of LGBTQ individuals living and working in the middle of the country. We look forward to hearing what the presidential candidates have to say to this often overlooked but politically powerful community.”
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Moderators will be Zach Stafford, editor-in-chief of The Advocate, a worldwide source of LGBTQ news and entertainment; Kennan Crow, One Iowa director of policy and advocacy; and Lyz Lenz, a columnist for The Gazette.
Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 20, and the program in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. This event is free but required registration in advance is available at thegazette.com/2019LGBTQ.
Honorary co-chairs for the forum are U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa City and Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque; state Sens. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids and Zach Wahls of Coralville; state Rep. Liz Bennett of Cedar Rapids; Kyla Paterson, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Stonewall Caucus; Linn County Democratic Party Chairman Bret Nilles; and Hiawatha City Council member Aime Wichtendahl.