For many LGBTQ+ Americans, the November presidential election feels like a matter of life or death. Anti-discrimination protections in health care, schools and homeless shelters have been gutted. Murders of transgender people are at all-time high.
You wouldn’t get that sense watching Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s town halls held this week, LGBTQ+ leaders said.
LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD took news networks to task Friday for failing to press Biden and Trump on queer issues.
“So much is at stake for the LGBTQ community this election and news media must get this right for the Vice Presidential and Presidential debates,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
Biden participated in a CNN town hall on Thursday. On Tuesday, Trump held on with ABC. Both events were in the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania.
“This is the fourth nationally televised election event since the presidential candidates were nominated last month and the fourth to ignore and fail to represent issues important to LGBTQ Americans,” GLAAD said in a statement.
Two events held last year during the Democratic presidential primaries specifically focused on LGBTQ+ rights. GLAAD held a forum last September with The Advocate magazine. CNN hosted an Equality Town Hall in October. During that event, Black trans women in the crowd were so frustrated by the lack of attention given to the crisis of violence against their communities that they repeatedly interrupted moderators.
But LGBTQ+ activists say mainstream media has largely devalued queer voices this election season. Campaign forums are not the only arenas where media is failing queer audiences, they say. This week, Media Matters reported that TV news dedicated no airtime to the surge in anti-transgender killings after June.
“We found that broadcast and cable TV news reported on anti-trans violence for a combined 29 minutes in June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month, but then — outside of a single report from ABC that ran just over 1 minute — outlets failed to report on the topic in July or August,” the progressive nonprofit said in the report.
Zeke Stokes, former vice president of GLAAD and a consultant for the group, said he worries that the media is failing to draw out critical differences between Trump and Biden on big social issues as the pandemic consumes the conversation.
“The media is not covering not just LGBTQ issues, there have been no real questions about immigration in the last couple of forums,” Stokes said. “There have been no real questions about women’s rights, choice, all the things that have been hallmarks of presidential campaigns up until 2016.”
Trump has been roundly criticized by most major LGBTQ+ organizations. GLAAD says he has launched 175 attacks against the queer community since taking office, ranging from banning transgender people from serving in the military to fighting against federal LGBTQ+ employment protections. The Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the ACLU have all sued the administration over its stance on LGBTQ+ rights.
Biden, whose 2012 endorsement of marriage equality catalyzed President Obama to back the issue, has vowed to advanced LGBTQ+ rights if elected. On Thursday, his campaign held three LGBTQ+ events. At least two more are scheduled for next week.