Biden's LGBTQ record draws scrutiny at Iowa presidential forum
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[September 21, 2019]
By Amanda Becker and Trevor Hunnicutt
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa/NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Former Vice President Joe Biden's decades-long record on lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender issues was scrutinized on Friday in Iowa at the
first major forum focused on the topic during the 2020 Democratic
presidential nominating contest.
Biden was questioned at the multi-candidate event on Friday night about
his votes as a U.S. senator from Delaware on legislation that included
the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibited openly gay
individuals from serving in the U.S. military and a law defining
marriage as between a man and a woman.
When moderator Lyz Lenz, a columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette, one
of the event's sponsors, mentioned that Biden had called Republican Vice
President Mike Pence - a religious conservative who as Indiana governor
in 2014 signed a state law banning same-sex marriage - a "decent guy",
the audience booed.
"It's just a matter of a way in which you usually speak - when we try to
get things done - to talk about people," Biden told Lenz.
The exchange between Lenz and Biden, the current front-runner to be the
Democratic nominee to take on Republican President Donald Trump in
November 2020, was the tensest of the night, when 10 of the 19
candidates vying for the nomination discussed LGBTQ issues, including
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who would be the first
openly gay U.S. president.
Biden's campaign declined to comment on the forum.
The former vice president backed "don't ask, don't tell" as part of a
larger defense bill and later voted to remove it. Though Biden also
voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, he had previously opposed denying
same-sex couples benefits.
He backed same-sex marriage before former President Barack Obama, for
whom he served. And shortly after his statement about Pence, Biden wrote
on Twitter that there is "nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights."
[to top of second column]
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe
Biden speaks at the One Iowa and GLAAD LGBTQ Presidential Forum in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Forum attendees Elle Boeding, Micah McCutchen and Emmett Cory, all
20-something students at the University of Northern Iowa who are
involved with the LGBTQ-group UNI Proud, said, though, that the
event made them further doubt whether Biden was the best
representative for a party that has rapidly evolved on lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer issues.
Cory questioned Biden's response that he "didn't have to evolve"
because he was an early supporter of gay rights.
"I think that he thinks he doesn't need to, but he does, he can't
just ride (his political history) without having to get with the
times," Cory said.
Boeding was turned off by Biden at times interrupting Lenz, who
tweeted that Biden "said to me dryly, 'You're a real sweetheart,'"
as the two walked off stage.
"In this specific setting, interrupting a woman is a no go ... I
don't know what it will take for him to connect the dots," Boeding
McCutchen said: "Joe Biden had a bad night."
Biden is set to attend additional campaign events in Iowa on
Saturday, including a multi-candidate steak fry hosted by a county
Democratic Party. His appearance at the LGBTQ forum came amid news
reports that Trump repeatedly pressured Ukraine's president to
investigate Biden and Biden's son.
(Reporting By Amanda Becker in Iowa and Trevor Hunnicutt in New
York; Editing by Tom Hogue)\
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