Even Though Debate Moderators Didn’t Pose Any LGBT-Related Questions, Both Candidates Brought Up LGBT People
Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY
Over the course of three general election presidential debates, moderators failed to ask candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a single question on LGBT equality. In the third and final debate, both candidates independently brought up LGBT people, though in drastically different terms, highlighting the need for a question to specifically parse policy positions on LGBT equality.
The third presidential debate concluded without Fox News host Chris Wallace asking a question pertaining to LGBT equality. Prior to the debate, the National Center for Transgender Equality had urged Wallace to address the “critical issue” of transgender equality. This year saw an unprecedented number of anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures, high-profile lawsuits from several states against federal policy guidance over transgender student equality, and the adoption of North Carolina's widely condemned HB 2, which, among other things, requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates.
While Wallace failed to ask the candidates about their differing positions on LGBT equality, both Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump brought up LGBT people in the course of the debate. In answering a question on Supreme Court nominees, Clinton said that “we need a Supreme Court that will stand up … on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community” and that it is “important that we not reverse marriage equality.” In the second debate, Clinton had similarly said, “I want a Supreme Court that will stick with marriage equality” and pointed out that Trump has suggested that he would nominate justices who would “reverse marriage equality.”
Trump didn’t bring up LGBT equality in the discussion of domestic policy. Instead, he mentioned LGBT people in an attack on the Clinton Foundation, calling the organization a “criminal enterprise” because it accepts donations from countries with anti-LGBT policies, saying “these are people that push gays off business -- off buildings.” This talking point is ripped straight from right-wing media pundits like Fox’s Sean Hannity, who have attempted to attack the Clinton Foundation by scandalizing donations from countries that have a history of discriminating against women and LGBT people. This line of attack ignores Trump’s business dealings in the exact same countries that donate to the Clinton Foundation.
Given that media have previously ignored Trump’s anti-LGBT record to falsely tout him as LGBT-friendly, the debates would have been the perfect chance for journalists to correct the mischaracterization of Trump as a “champion” of LGBT equality.
Methodology: Media Matters searched transcripts of the three presidential debates in The Washington Post for the terms “LGBT,” "gay," “lesbian,” “bisexual,” "transgender," "sexual orientation," "gender identity,” and “marriage.”