Democratic Debate Moderators Have Not Asked A Single Question About LGBT Equality

Debate moderators have failed to ask a single question about LGBT equality in the first five Democratic primary debates, despite a number of emerging threats to LGBT rights.  

In the five Democratic presidential debates held since last October, debate moderators at CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and MSNBC failed to ask candidates a single question related to LGBT equality. The only time a moderator mentioned LGBT rights was in the first Democratic debate, hosted by CNN on October 13, 2015, when moderator Anderson Cooper referenced Hillary Clinton's previous opposition to same-sex marriage -- which she eventually reversed -- to ask, “Will you say anything to get elected?”  

Moderators of the GOP debates, by comparison, have asked candidates about issues related to LGBT equality, including exploring the candidates' positions on Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and inquiring into candidate Ben Carson's involvement on gay-friendly corporate boards.

There's no shortage of pressing LGBT issues moderators could ask the Decomcratic candidates about:

  • Religious Freedom Laws. A number of states have proposed their own “religious freedom” bills for consideration in 2016. This type of legislation seeks to create broad legal protections for refusing service to LGBT people under the guise of “religious freedom,” and it was the subject of a high-profile debate in Indiana last year.
  • Attacks On Public Bathroom Access. Anti-LGBT groups are working nationwide to pass laws that prohibit transgender people from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity. Conservatives are pushing to repeal LGBT non-discrimination protections by fearmongering over bathroom access, as they successfully did in Houston last November.
  • Murders Of Transgender Women. Last year a record number of transgender women, almost all of them women of color, were victims of homicide. This "epidemic of violence" against transgender women of color led the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus to hold the first ever forum on violence against transgender people.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationally last June, the fight for LGBT equality is far from over. With three Democratic debates remaining and Clinton's and candidate Bernie Sanders' detailed LGBT policy platforms readily available for scrutiny, there's still time for moderators to ask the Democratic candidates important questions about LGBT issues.


Media Matters searched the New York Times transcripts of the February 4, 2016, and January 17, 2016 debates, the Time transcript of the December 19, 2015, debate, the CBS transcript of the November 14, 2015, debate, and the CNN transcript for the October 13, 2015, debate for the terms “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “transgender,” “LGBT,” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “religious freedom,” “religion,” “discrimination,” “discriminate,” “equality,” and “marriage.”