CLEVELAND – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, responded to a slew of anti-LGBT comments and positions by candidates competing in the first Republican presidential primary debate in Cleveland, Ohio. During it, Mike Huckabee defended the existing ban on transgender military service, and Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal said that as President they would put LGBT people at risk for discrimination by using their executive authority on Day 1 to pass executive orders enabling taxpayer-funded discrimination.
“Tonight’s comments from Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal — pledging to sign anti-LGBT executive orders on day one in the White House — sent an exceptionally troubling message to millions of LGBT Americans,” said HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “And by defending the ban on transgender military service in offensive terms, Mike Huckabee proved once again that he’s campaigning on hate. Countless LGBT families across Ohio and the nation want to know that our next president will defend their Constitutional rights and fight for full federal equality. But sadly, tonight’s debate left far more questions than answers, and the answers we did get were deeply disappointing.”
There are approximately 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DOD) the largest employer of transgender people in America. These courageous service members are forced to serve in silence by DOD medical regulations prohibiting their service. The American Medical Association has said there is no valid medical reason for the ban.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was applauded after saying that while he remains opposed to marriage equality, he would respect the Supreme Court’s recent ruling — the only candidate at the debates to say he would accept the Obergefell decision. A 53 percent majority of Ohioans support marriage equality, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. After the 5 PM debate, FOX News reported based on Facebook data that LGBT equality was the third-most important issue on the minds of Ohio voters.
Recent polling conducted by GQR for the Human Rights Campaign showed that a 55 percent majority of voters are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry, including 40 percent who strongly oppose. This majority includes Independents, married women and white millennials. All of these groups voted Republican in the last congressional election.