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During a televised town hall on ABC Thursday night, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden promised the mother of a young transgender girl that, if elected, he would reverse several Trump executive orders and policies targeting transgender people.
Biden submitted to questioning from both audience members and ABC News host George Stephanopoulos during the 90-minute session in Philadelphia, and stayed for 30 minutes after the cameras stopped rolling to answer additional questions from audience members or to clarify answers he gave during the broadcast.
One of the questioners was Mieke Haeck, from State College, Pa., who asked Biden about the Trump administration’s various attacks on the transgender community, and what he would do to reverse those actions.
“I will flat-out change the law. Eliminate those executive orders,” Biden said, before launching into a seemingly unrelated story about when he first saw a gay couple show affection.
“The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, ‘You know I want to be transgender, that’s what I think I’d like to be, make my life a lot easier,'” Biden said sarcastically, seeming to reject the notion — frequently put forth by social conservatives — that gender identity is a choice.
“There should be zero discrimination. What’s happening is, too many transgender women of color are being murdered. They’re being murdered,” Biden added, estimating that the number of transgender women killed this year by violence was 17 (it’s 33). “I promise you, there is no reason to suggest that there should be any right denied your daughter that your other daughter has a right to be and do.”
He also noted that his now-deceased son, Beau Biden, had pushed for a transgender rights law to be passed in Delaware when he was that state’s attorney general, an accomplishment of which the former vice president said he was “proud” his son had accomplished.
Biden was also asked by Nathan Osburn, of Philadelphia, about the Supreme Court and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s suggestions for expanding the number of justices on the high court. Osburn also asked Biden what he would say to LGBTQ Americans and others who were worried about erosions of their rights — concerns that have gained more attention in light of the expected confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think there’s great reason to be concerned,” Biden told Osburn. “I was on the road most of the time during these hearings, so I didn’t hear many of them. I just got the recaps when I would get in late at night. …[B]ut my reading online, of what the judge said, was she didn’t answer very many questions at all.”
He also criticized Barrett for failing to clarify what her view of whether the U.S. Constitution protects unenumerated rights not specifically mentioned in the text, in light of her bragging that she embraces an “originalist” approach to interpreting the law.
“I think there’s a great reason to be concerned for the LGBT community, something I fought very hard for for a long time to make sure there’s equality across the board,” Biden said, adding that he believed Barrett’s confirmation would threaten the Affordable Care Act and the access to health care that the law was able to provide to millions of Americans.
He also criticized efforts to push through Barrett’s nomination after people had already begun voting in this year’s presidential election, opining that the winner of the election should be the person allowed to fill the vacancy left open by the late liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether he would pack the court, Biden reiterated that he had “not been a fan” of court-packing in the past, but left open the possibility to other ways of reforming the court, depending on how the Barrett nomination is handled, especially if Republicans “rush” to confirm her prior to November’s election and do not allow robust debate over her nomination on the Senate floor.
When pressed further, he promised to make his views known on court-packing prior to the election, though he also criticized the question as an attempt to get him to say something that would distract from prosecuting the case that proceeding with Barrett’s nomination is illegitimate.
“What you should do is you’ve got to make sure you vote and vote for a senator who in fact, thinks reflects your general view of constitutional interpretation and vote for a president who think is more in line with you,” Biden told Osburn. “I would not have appointed [Barrett]. But if you oppose my position, vote for Trump. Vote for a Republican who shares that view. But that’s your opportunity to get involved in lifetime appointments [to the federal bench] that have presidents come and go while justices stay.
The LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD praised ABC for allowing questions on LGBTQ issues as part of the town hall, while criticizing NBC — which held a dueling town hall featuring President Donald Trump at the same time — for not calling the president to account for his own record on LGBTQ rights.
“ABC and George Stephanopolous made history by including two questions which let LGBTQ voters know where Vice President Biden stands on issues important to our community,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “It is a shame and a disservice that President Trump was not asked about his abysmal record on LGBTQ issues and national media needs to end this silence moving forward. LGBTQ voters and our allies make up a powerful voting bloc and deserve to know where the candidates stand. Our rights and the Trump administration’s record must continue to be part of the conversation in the most consequential election of our lifetime.”
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