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Democratic Town Hall On LGBTQ Issues Draws A Crowd In Wilton Manors

LGBTQ community Wilton Manors
Caitie Switalski
/
WLRN
Ryan Levesque, left, and his husband Bret Levesque held Human Rights Campaign flags in Wilton Manors while they watched Thursday night's CNN town hall on LGBTQ issues.

The event might have been on the other side of the country, but the crowd gathered in Wilton Manors to watch the nine Democratic presidential candidates discuss their stances on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues Thursday night, still showed up wanting to be impressed.

In the eve of National Coming Out Day, around 30 members of the LGBTQ community and allies gathered  at Rosie's Bar and Grill on Wilton Drive to watch what each of the candidates at the CNN town hall in Los Angeles had to say about the issues they care about in the 2020 presidential election. 

 

The event was organized by the national nonprofit Human Rights CampaignEquality Florida, The Dolphin Democrats, and the Florida Democratic Party. There were 40 other of those gatherings across the country, and three others in the state. 

The town hall itself was structured a lot like the event on climate crisis that took place in early September. Candidates were interviewed individually, back-to-back. They touched on issues including transgender troops inthe U.S. military, paid parental leave for LGBTQ parents, high rates of homelessness among the LGBTQ community, and high prescription drug prices, including medications for HIV.

Paul Anagnostos said he was personally watching out for candidates that could talk about plans to move the Equality Act legislation forward in Congress. It would amend the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

"As a gay American, given how divided the country is, how could we get something like the Equality Act passed?" said Anagnostos, who's a volunteer with the national nonprofit Human Rights Campaign, and a member of its national board of governors."It's like we're the last type of person that it's ok to discriminate against, to not want to bake a cake for."

The bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in May this year, but has yet to be taken up by the U.S. Senate.

Read More: LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination Case Comes To Supreme Court

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was interviewed first in the four and a half hour long town hall. Inside Rosie's he was received with high praise.

"Nothing was scripted, he was so eloquent," Bret Levesque said. 

Levesque came to the bar to watch the town hall with his husband, Ryan. They said they each support multiple campaigns - but while Bret likes Booker, he's leaning towards Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"It is time that we had a female president, and I think she's the best person for the job," he said. "I think at this point, it's her and then Cory [Booker]," Levesque said. "That's a dream ticket for me."

The town hall also addressed transgender rights at several moments throughout the night, especially recent violence against transgender women. 

Yahni Rose came to watch the town hall with her best friend. As a black transgender woman, she said she's most focused on candidates and policies that can help end the violence towards people in her community.

"It's kind of like a bittersweet moment cause I'm happy that we have people speaking for us, but at the same time, like, I wish that this wasn't an issue," Rose said. "I have anxiety walking out the house sometimes, to know that there's been 19 girls who've been murdered, you know, that's like me."