This evening, The Gazette, GLAAD, The Advocate and One Iowa are hosting a forum with presidential candidates Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Sestak, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson. Rather than playing the spectator, The Gazette decided to partner to host the forum in order to share the stories and struggles of Iowans and bring to light prescient Civil Rights issues that are often ignored in the political discourse.
The forum will focus on LGBTQ issues and comes at a moment in history when violence toward transgender people is on the rise. As a state, Iowa was the third in the nation to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. But more recently, the state has passed regressive religious freedom and health care laws that hurt LGBTQ people.
In February, a federal-district court ruled to in favor of a religious student group that openly rejects LGBTQ individuals.
In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds approved a law changing the state’s Civil Rights Act so that government entities will not be required to fund gender affirming surgery.
Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, the former executive director of One Iowa Action, in a statement described the provision as “cruel and outdated language that enshrines discrimination in Iowa law.”
Per capita, LGBTQ people are the most likely group to be targeted by hate crimes in the US. 1 in 4 transgender people report being a victim of a hate crime, and the rate for transgender women of color is even higher.
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This discrimination is something LGBTQ Iowans feel acutely. In response to a Gazette questionnaire, one person wrote, “I am a transgender woman, I happen to work in politics and I have political ambition, and I’m actually from Cedar Rapids, which was the community that I left after coming out and have not been fully back to embrace its membership until the forum. As a transgender American with state insurance, I’m losing hope that I will ever be able to follow through on my plans without spending thousands of dollars out of pocket.”
A mother from Coralville explains, “I am the mother of an LGBTQ+ teen, who has struggled with bullying and depression … My heart hurts for these young people.”
Another LGBTQ person, lives in a rural area of the state and struggles to afford health care, writing, “I am 27 and going on my second year without health insurance. In order to see a doctor I pay out of pocket on to of traveling some distance to see an inclusive clinic/doctor.”
Each of these Iowans want to know how the candidates will make our country a safer and more secure place for all people.
The forum seeks to bring to the forefront the intersectional issues and policies that impact America’s LGBTQ communities and ask candidates.
The forum will be held at Coe College’s Sinclair Auditorium and GLAAD will host a livestream of the event on YouTube, which you can watch at www.thegazette.com/lgbtqforum. One Iowa is also hosting watch parties around the state. More information on the livestream and the watch parties can be found on OneIowa.org.
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