Only three candidates qualified for the CNN-hosted debate in Des Moines, Iowa, last night, included Ron DeSantis (above left), Nikki Haley (above right), and Donald Trump, though Trump did not attend.
Instead, Trump appeared on Fox at a town hall in Iowa. Neither the moderators or audience members asked a question about his record of policy and rhetoric against LGBTQ people. GLAAD has documented more than 200 attacks throughout his one-term presidency and the 2024 campaign via the GLAAD Accountability Project.
Haley and DeSantis traded attacks at a rapid pace, including about their records about LGBTQ people, and spread disinformation and rhetoric that went unchecked for facts.
The moderators did not ask questions about LGBTQ Americans, or the violence and discrimination against them proposed in hundreds of state bills. Unprompted, DeSantis introduced falsehoods and bizarre claims, including his responses, saying, “It is wrong to sexualize [school] curriculum.… It is wrong to tell a kindergartener, like Disney wanted to do, that you can change your gender, or to tell a third grader that you were both in the wrong body.” (There is no evidence that Disney, or anyone else, is telling students this). DeSantis continued:, “Nikki Haley sided with Disney. She invited them to South Carolina, even though they were involved in transing kids.” (Fact: There is no such thing as “transing” kids)
In response, Haley repeated her previous misgendering of transgender student athletes saying, “I have fought for women’s sports and making sure that biological boys are not in women’s sports and I will continue to do that.”(Fact: transgender girls are girls. “Biological boy” is an inaccurate term frequently used by those targeting the access of transgender girls to be themselves and be involved in school activities as any other girl. Also, leading sports authorities including the International Olympic Committee have stated that transgender people should be welcome in sport, with no assumed advantage based on a person’s sex assigned at birth, or sex characteristics, and indeed, athletes come in all shapes, sizes and abilities and are not excluded based on body type or characteristics.) In this debate, Haley did not repeat false and baseless claims that girls’ mental health is suffering because trans girls are in locker rooms, perhaps finally getting the message that there is no evidence that trans students are a threat to other students. (Facts: Transgender students are three times more likely to miss school than other students, are more likely to report feeling unsafe at school and being bullied, and face a risk of sexual assault being in locker rooms and restrooms that don’t match their gender identity.)
In Iowa, where the debate was held, a new “Don’t Say LGBTQ” law has resulted in the removal of 450 books from schools and libraries, and it banned instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity through 7th grade. The new law runs contrary to the results of the November 7 election in the state in which Iowa voters rejected the efforts of the anti-LGBTQ extremist group Moms for Liberty to get its endorsed candidates voted to school boards. Reports the Des Moines Register, “School board elections are nonpartisan, but they have taken a heated political turn in the Des Moines metro in recent years as Republicans have passed laws that impact LGBTQ students and transform Iowa’s schools with restrictions on what books students can read, what they can learn in the classroom, what restroom they can use and what names they can be called.” A judge blocked the book banning and instruction ban provisions of the new law in December, noting they were “incredibly broad” and “wildly overbroad.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD responded: “Throughout these first debates, DeSantis and Haley spread misinformation about LGBTQ people rather than address how we have faced more than 700 incidents of violence, and had 500+ baseless and unconstitutional bills targeting us that do nothing to improve the lives of any American. The governors’ profound lack of meaningful action and piles of harmful rhetoric have fueled a shocking rise in discrimination and threats that make every American less safe. GLAAD urges reporters to ask all candidates for their policies that protect LGBTQ Americans. Voters need reporters to hold candidates accountable, and choose leaders who champion the freedoms of all Americans.”
Throughout the rest of the campaign, GLAAD is looking to debate and town hall moderators and other journalists to ask the candidates questions about their LGBTQ records, and how they plan to address LGBTQ people’s universal and fundamental human needs to be safe, belong and to succeed in all areas of American life.
GLAAD’s guide on all the presidential candidates is available here: Election 2024: Presidential Primary Candidates on the Record
Some 7% of Americans are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to Gallup, including 20% of GenZ, the youngest population cohort studied and most out generation in history. Polling and turnout analysis from the 2020 election indicate that LGBTQ voters played a deciding role in the victory of Joe Biden for President and in key battleground states. The results of the 2024 general election will have profound implications for LGBTQ Americans across the country.