CNN Moderators Slammed for Not Asking Questions on LGBTQ Issues During Fourth Democratic Debate

CNN moderators didn't pose a single question about LGBTQ issues to the dozen presidential candidates onstage during Tuesday night's fourth Democratic debate, and advocates are not having it.

Issues facing the LGBTQ community, like workplace discrimination, have become a topic of national debate in recent weeks as the Supreme Court takes on several cases this term that could reshape gay rights in America.

GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy organization, continually tweeted updates about the debate that specifically noted the lack of questions on the topic.

Two and a half hours into the #DemocraticDebate and no LGBTQ-specific question yet. ⏰

— GLAAD (@glaad) October 16, 2019

Zeke Stokes, a former GLAAD executive, tweeted that it was "unconscionable that in the face of #SCOTUS considering three cases that could pave the way for workplace protections or reinforce the Trump attacks on #LGBTQ people, not a single question was asked about the issues uniquely impacting us and our families."

Last week, the court heard oral arguments in a case about whether the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said that the language in the legislation was "really close, really close" and that he feared a Supreme Court decision, instead of leaving the matter up to Congress, would cause "massive social upheaval."

"The Supreme Court is considering allowing employers to fire LGBTQ people for being LGBTQ, and where are we tonight? We're invisible in this conversation," tweeted Charlotte Clymer, a press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign.

The Supreme Court is considering allowing employers to fire LGBTQ people for being LGBTQ, and where are we tonight?

We’re invisible in this conversation.#DemocraticDebate

— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️‍🌈 (@cmclymer) October 16, 2019

While LGBTQ issues were left off the table during Tuesday's debate in Ohio, the moderators did have time to ask the candidates about comedian Ellen DeGeneres and her friendship with former President George W. Bush. The two were recently spotted together at a Dallas Cowboys football game. A photograph of them went viral, and LGBTQ advocates slammed DeGeneres for being close to Bush, who opposed gay marriage during his time in office.

DeGeneres addressed the controversy, explaining that she is friends with a lot of people who don't share her exact views or beliefs. She also called on others to do the same.

"We're all different, and I think we've forgotten that that's OK," she said during one of her shows.

CNN's Anderson Cooper brought up that moment and then asked the Democratic candidates to talk about a "friendship that you've had that would surprise us." It was one of the last questions of the night in a debate that largely ignored climate change, housing and immigration.

"Let me get this straight: They can't ask one question about LGBTQ+ rights in FOUR debates but they can ask the presidential candidates to help Ellen cape for a war criminal who opposed same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ inclusive hate crimes laws, and gay inclusion in the Boy Scouts?" tweeted Nico Lang, the deputy editor of Out magazine.

However, just last week CNN did hold the first-ever presidential town hall devoted solely to LGBTQ issues, with nine of the Democratic candidates. The participants pledged to codify nondiscrimination protections in federal law, ban harmful practices like conversion therapy and reverse the Trump administration's transgender military ban.

cnn fourth democratic debate ignores lgbtq questions
From left, Democratic presidential candidates Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro at the start of the October 15 debate at Otterbein University in Ohio. Chip Somodevilla/Getty