09/21/2019 09:17 EDT

2020 Democratic Candidates Reach Out To LGBTQ Voters At Iowa Forum

Elizabeth Warren decried the killings this year of 18 trans women of color, Cory Booker said it's time for a "woke president" on LGBTQ issues.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was impassioned, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got personal and former Vice President Joe Biden was on the defensive at one point during an Iowa forum where 10 Democratic presidential contenders addressed LGBTQ issues Friday.

Warren began her presentation with a moving tribute to 8 trans women of color who have been killed so far this year. She read each of their names. “It is time for a president of the United States of America to say their names,” Warren said.

“The cost of inequality for trans people, particularly trans women of color, has now reached a moment of crisis, and it is time for everyone in America to speak out on this issue,” she said.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said it’s “about time we had a woke president” on LGBTQ issues. He noted that when he was mayor of Newark he refused to officiate at any wedding until same-sex marriages were allowed.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Booker said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Biden, meanwhile, had to fend off sharp questioning from Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz about his opposition in the 1990s to same-sex marriage — as well as the law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman and his support for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military.

Biden said he was the “first person nationally” to come out for same-sex marriage when he did so on “Meet the Press” in 2012

At one point he quipped to Lenz: “You’re a lovely person,” to which she responded: “Just askin’ the questions that people want to know.”

Sen. Kamala Harris of California was grilled about her defense, as California’s former attorney general, of a law that denied gender affirmation surgery for trans prison inmates.  

Harris said she got the policy changed by working “behind the scenes.”

“My entire career I have been a proud ally” of the LBGTQ community, she said. “Back when some Democrats were talking about civil unions, I was performing marriages in 2004 at San Francisco City Hall. ... You have my commitment ... I will be always loud, proud and strong as an ally as we continue with our movement.”

Buttigieg, the sole openly gay candidate, said that to him “all politics is personal.” 

He recalled serving in the military under don’t ask, don’t tell when sexual preference had to be hidden. “I also remember the weight lifted when that was no longer a threat to my career,” he said. “And yet we know that so many Americans are still finding that they are treated as less-than, including trans military members right now who are willing to put their lives on the line for this country.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who has apologized for anti-gay comments she made in the past, said her record fighting for equal rights “speaks for itself.” She also said she has trusted her life while serving in the military to LGBTQ service members.

The candidates were united on several issues, including vowing to repeal President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and supporting the anti-discrimination Equality Act. 

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Marianne Williamson also spoke at the forum, which was sponsored by GLAAD, One Iowa, The Advocate and The Gazette.

A second forum on LGBTQ issues, hosted by Human Rights Campaign in Los Angeles, will be broadcast on CNN next month.

The entire forum can be seen in the video at the top.