Nine Democratic candidates promised a California crowd on Thursday night that they’d fight for the LGBTQ community, specifically by banning conversion therapy and lifting restrictions that often keep gay men from being allowed to donate blood.
The candidates also discussed faith — specifically on whether religious institutions that do not recognize same-sex marriages should continue to keep their tax-exempt status, with the near-consensus among candidates being that they shouldn’t.
Appearing in back-to-back, separate town halls, the candidates also expressed their concern for equality and acceptance, while criticizing the Trump administration and using personal stories to drive their points home.
The real standout moments of the night didn’t come from differing views, but in the way each of the nine candidates projected their beliefs to the crowd.
Protestors were as prominent as the candidates themselves. They were welcomed with open arms by candidates and CNN moderators as they highlighted — and demanded more attention be brought to — the struggles and high-murder rate of black transgender women.
While topics of substance dominated CNN’s Equality Town Hall, talk on social media after the event was consumed with tweets and videos of former vice president Joe Biden and CNN moderator Chris Cuomo, who both had awkward slips of the tongue.
Here are all of the highlights from Thursday’s town hall:
Warren’s quick, witty comeback to ‘hypothetical’ question
The unpredicted can often happen on the campaign trail — including at a town hall.
A question from the crowd asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s become the Democratic front runner in some polls, how she’d respond to a hypothetical question from a more-conservative supporter about accepting same-sex marriage.
“Senator, I’m old-fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman. How would you respond to that?"
Warren didn’t pause.
“Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” Warren said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “And I’m going to say, then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.”
Ten seconds later, Warren brought even more laughs and cheers by adding in: “Assuming you can find one.”
Uh... What, Joe?
The former vice president has become some-what known for making weird comments in big moments, such as his reference to Americans needing to ‘leave their record players on at night’ in the last Democratic debate.
Thursday night was no different.
“We talked about this in San Francisco, it’s all about gay bathhouses, round-the-clock sex ... C’mon, man,” Biden said to CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
He then finished, pointing to the crowd: “Gay couples are more likely to stay together than heterosexual couples.”
Twitter let Biden have it for the comment, which was unrelated to anything that was said or asked toward him.
Also adding to Biden’s blips from the night was a comment where he swore that President Barack Obama kissed him. He also mistakenly used a phrase to suggest he himself is gay.
Beto sets tone on tax-exempt status for religious institutions
Sen. Cory Booker was the first of nine candidates to speak Thursday night. When asked, he failed to offer a yes or no answer on whether religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed same-sex marriage.
Beto O’Rourke didn’t hesitate when asked the same.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights or the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said at the town hall.
He added: “And so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
Buttigieg also weighed in on the issue, saying that using faith as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people ‘makes God smaller’ and is an ‘insult to faith.’
‘My blood is not welcome in this country’
All of the candidates who were asked agree: The Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from gay men who have had sex within the last year is unfair and should be reduced or eliminated.
While all candidates had their say about the issue, Booker was first.
“Two words: Absolutely yes,” he said in short, when asked if he’d attempt to lift the ban altogether as president.
The prohibitions date back to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 1980s — when gay men were banned from donating blood for life. The FDA limited that restriction to a year without sex in 2015.
“When tragedy hits and blood donations are desperately needed, many gay men are unable to donate simply because they are in a relationship with a partner of the same sex. Would you support a shorter window; and what would your administration do to allow someone like me to be able to donate blood when needed?" asked a man from the crowd to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, who is gay, first thanked the man for his willingness to donate blood. He then went on to tell a personal story about his experience with not being able to donate in his own city’s blood drive.
“My blood is not welcome in this country,” he said. “And it’s not based on science. It’s based on prejudice.”
Oh no, Cuomo
CNN host Chris Cuomo joked about adopting female pronouns during Tuesday’s town hall, drawing silence from the crowd and a confused Sen. Kamala Harris to his side.
Cuomo made the remark in response to Harris, who told Cuomo her pronouns were “she, her, and hers” after walking on stage for her slice of Thursday’s town hall.
“Mine, too,” Cuomo jokingly said in reply.
Twitter immediately blew up — and Cuomo quickly apologized after the town hall’s end, owning up to the mistake.