Wednesday night in Simi Valley, California, seven of the candidates in the Republican presidential primary met on stage in a Fox Business-hosted debate moderated by Ilia Calderón of UNIVISION and Dana Perino and Stuart Varney of Fox News.
In advance of the debate, GLAAD sent a letter to moderators Ilia Calderón of UNIVISION and Dana Perino and Stuart Varney of Fox News. The letter encouraged the moderators to include pressing LGBTQ issues in the debate, and offered up questions, included below. One of GLAAD’s recommended LGBTQ questions was asked when Calderón said, “Vice President Pence, the Department of Homeland Security warns that violence against LGBTQ+ people is on the rise and intensifying. According to a recent study, members of that community are nine times more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes. As President, how would you protect this community from violent attacks and discrimination?”
DHS reports, “LGBTQI+ individuals face a surge in violence against individuals and community spaces. Federal threat monitoring has shown that these threats are increasingly tied to hate groups and domestic violent extremists.”
GLAAD and the ADL have tracked more than 350 incidents of harassment, vandalism, assault, and murder, against LGBTQ people, directly coinciding with a disturbing increase in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and baseless legislation.
Pence responded to Calderón: “I’ll stand up for the safety and the civil liberties of every American, from every background,” without mentioning any specific plans or proposals that would offer protections for LGBTQ people. Pence’s record as vice president and governor of Indiana includes more than 100 individual instances of policies, statements, and actions that specifically target LGBTQ people for discrimination, including removing workplace protections, allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ patrons, restricting healthcare, and banning transgender people from serving in the military. GLAAD documented more than 200 attacks against LGBTQ Americans, in policy and rhetoric, during the Trump-Pence administration.
Earlier in the debate, Vivek Ramaswamy falsely claimed, unprompted, “…transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder. … And I’m sorry, it is not compassionate to affirm a kid’s confusion.” The term “transgenderism” is used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to “a condition” or a “dangerous ideology” and medical consensus states that being transgender is not a mental health condition. Ramaswamy promised to “ban genital mutilation or chemical castration,” an inflammatory and inaccurate description of health care for transgender people that is supported by every major medical association, statements here. Pence also made a similar pledge saying, “…we’re going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country.” The candidates were not asked to provide evidence for their inflammatory claims about transgender health care in the United States, which follows Standards of Care by the U.S. and World Professional Associations of Transgender Health.
Responding to a question about the academic readiness of America’s school children, Pence said, “We’ve got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.” Transgender ideology is a term used by anti-LGBTQ activists to undermine the reality that transgender people exist, and like all people, deserve safety, dignity, and health, as well as a school environment where they can belong and learn.
GLAAD also published a primer on the anti-LGBTQ stances and records of the candidates.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, responded below:
“Instead of addressing the critical issue of the safety and rights of all Americans, GOP primary candidates ignored the rise in violence and hateful rhetoric aimed at the LGBTQ community and our allies. Several chose to continue making false claims about transgender people and their basic human rights to safety, health care and access to education. LGBTQ people and topics continue to be weaponized by politicians looking to score political points, and these false and harmful statements must continue to be challenged by all reporters, and our lives and experiences included in political conversations. UNIVISION’s Ilia Calderón asked an essential question about our vulnerable community. Voters and reporters must demand answers so all Americans can make informed choices about the candidates and their commitment to the truth as well as the health and safety of every citizen.”
The first Republican debate, sponsored by Fox News in August, notably included moderator Martha McCallum misgendering transgender girls in her question calling them “biological boys.”
GLAAD offered moderators questions for the candidates, including the following:
Question for all candidates: Do you support marriage equality in the United States for same-sex couples? If not, will you be able to set aside your personal beliefs to protect the legal rights of LGBTQ people in this country?
FACT: Marriage equality has climbed to a record high support of 71% of all Americans, including 49% of Republicans.
Question for all candidates: Gun violence is the number one cause of death for young Americans, yet there’s incredible focus on banning youth from being able to attend family-friendly drag shows and events, with Republican lawmakers claiming that drag performers pose a threat to children’s safety. Do lawmakers have the right priority here?
FACT: There were more than 500 bills proposed nationwide targeting LGBTQ Americans, including transgender people and youth access to healthcare that is supported by every major medical association. (30+ statements here.)
Question for Mike Pence: You said you would again prohibit transgender Americans from serving in the military, as was the policy when you were vice president under Donald Trump, and cited “unit cohesion” as an area of military readiness affected by transgender personnel. Military leadership said unit cohesion did not suffer as a result of transgender personnel, but it did suffer because of the ban. Will you maintain your opposition to transgender personnel despite the views of military leadership?
Question for Vivek Ramaswamy: Your campaign website states that as president you would sign into law a ban on health care for transgender minors if it reached your desk in the White House. Every major medical association in the U.S. supports such care for trans youth. Have you talked with parents of transgender youth about their lives and private health care decisions? Why is it a politician’s place to decide what is best for these families?
FACT: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released studies about a rise in suicidal ideation in teenage girls and LGBTQ students, but no connection was made between the presence of transgender youth and thoughts of teenage girls. During the debate, Ramaswamy and other candidates spoke of “parental rights” to ban books and conversation about LGBTQ people, topics and history, while refusing the rights of parents to make private health care decisions for their children or have access to accurate and inclusive education.
Question for Nikki Haley: At a recent town hall meeting you said, “Do you remember, when you were growing up, how simple life was, how safe it felt?” What policies would you implement to ensure the safety of transgender youth?
Question for Ron DeSantis: As governor of Florida, you signed and then expanded the so-called “don’t say gay” law to ban any discussion of LGBTQ people or issues in not just the earliest grades but all the way to 12th grade. What would you say to a gay 16-year-old, or a student with two moms, about why they can’t talk about themselves or their families in school?
FACT: According to a 2023 study, nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation, and nearly 2 in 3 LGBTQ young people said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school made their mental health a lot worse.
Question for all candidates: How do you plan to protect LGBTQ people and supportive communities so that no one has to fear being the target of violence and hate?
FACT: Studies have shown an increase in anti-LGBTQ discrimination alongside the rise in hateful rhetoric and legislation targeting LGBTQ people. The effects are not only felt by LGBTQ people. Last month, a California woman named Lauri Carleton was shot and killed after her alleged killer confronted her about having a Pride flag in front of her clothing store. Lauri was an ally, not LGBTQ herself. She was straight and married, and a mother of nine.
GLAAD’s guide on all the declared 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 flipping many Donald Trump had won in 2016.
The results of the 2024 general election will have profound implications for LGBTQ people in California and across the country. The Fox Business debate in Simi Valley, CA, was an important opportunity to discuss what’s at stake and the LGBTQ records of the candidates. Media covering the debate should note the candidates’ LGBTQ records.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.