At a Friday night forum focusing on issues facing the LGBTQ community, Joe Biden did everything short of claiming he was at Stonewall before demonstrating how down for equality he is by reportedly calling a woman moderator sweetheart.
The Cedar Rapids, Iowa forum was hosted by Lyz Lenz, a columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, former editor of The Rumpus, and occasional Jezebel contributor. Lenz pushed Biden on his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act, original support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and past praise of conversion therapy enthusiast Mike Pence as a “decent guy.”
Biden countered that he supported same-sex marriage in 2012, a few days before the Obama administration officially announced its support, and that his views “didn’t have to evolve.”
While championing equality, as he insists he always has, Biden still managed to speak to Lenz as if she were a secretary at Sterling Cooper, calling her “a lovely person” onstage and “a real sweetheart” backstage, according to a tweet by Lenz.
In a backstage interview with the New York Times, Lenz said she found Biden’s behavior “a little condescending.”
The ten candidates who attended the forum have all made similar promises concerning the LGBTQ+ community, as noted by the Times. So each worked to distinguish their positions from those of the others:
“[N]early all back banning conversion therapy for minors; rolling back the spread of rules that allow religious businesses to decline serving L.G.B.T.Q. customers; and ending the Trump administration transgender military ban. Most have promised to pass the Equality Act, legislation opposed by the White House that would bolster the list of protected classes under civil rights law to include discrimination based on ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’”
Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii did face questions about comments she made concerning “homosexual extremists,” over a decade ago when Hawaii was debating legalizing civil unions. Gabbard said she no longer holds that view.
Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay man to run for president, defended himself against critics who say he hasn’t put LGBTQ issues at the forefront of his campaign, though he originally declined an invitation to the forum, according to Politico. He responded to those doubting his commitment to LGBTQ causes by recounting the time he couldn’t give blood in the mayor’s office blood drive even when he was mayor:
He faced questions about a ban on gay men donating blood, pointing out that as mayor he couldn’t participate in a blood drive sponsored by his office.
“It’s an example, one of many examples, of the exclusions in this country,” he said. “We are still living with the long tail of prejudices.”
The Iowa event, hosted by GLADD, was the first of two LGBTQ forums. In October, the Human Rights Campaign will host a second forum in Los Angeles.
This post has been updated to reflect that Lyz Lenz is an occasional contributor to Jezebel, and to clarify reporting by the New York Times.