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2020 Democratic candidates to participate in debate focused on LGBT issues

Gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

For the first time since the dramatic change in public opinion around gay rights, Democratic presidential candidates will be invited to participate in a forum focused exclusively on LGBT policies.

The event is scheduled for Oct. 10, the eve of National Coming Out Day. Hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the 2020 candidates will discuss topics related to hate crimes, bullying and transgender rights.

The HRC Foundation held presidential forums for Democratic primary candidates in 2004 and 2008. In 2012 and 2016, it did not hold one for the large Republican primary fields.

Since that 2008 forum, public attitudes and laws have moved rapidly in favor of LGBT people. That year, 55 percent of Americans believed gay and lesbian relations between consenting adults should be legal, according to Gallup polling. By May 2018, that opinion had risen to 75 percent.

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama supported civil unions between same-sex couples, but not marriage — a position he said he “evolved” on over his presidency.

Since 2013, the first openly bisexual woman and the first openly gay man and woman of color have been elected to Congress.

In the past decade, same-sex marriage has become federally enforced, attacks against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity have been added to the list of federal hate crimes, and the law banning LGBT Americans from serving openly in the military has been repealed.

President Trump has supported policies that have undermined LGBT rights such as his ban on transgender people serving in the military and his nomination of judges hostile to some legal protections.

“If any LGBTQ person were to take a cross-country drive from HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C., to UCLA’s campus, their rights and protections under the law would change dozens of times at every city line and state border,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Millions of LGBTQ people will have their rights on the ballot in 2020 — but today we are also a powerful voting bloc that will help determine the outcome. We’re excited to partner with UCLA Luskin and create an opportunity to hear candidates’ agendas for moving equality forward.”

HRC is using the DNC’s guidelines for inviting candidates to the debate, which requires them to receive donations from 65,000 people across 20 different states or receive 1 percent or higher support in three national polls.

The first openly gay politician to run for president, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg from Indiana, has said he’s met the donor threshold to be included in the debates.