Queer rights deserve presidential debate coverage

Ethan Elkins

Because so much time was spent discussing the candidates’ fitness for office, some policy discussion was neglected during the three debates. Queer issues were not given time during any of these, which is problematic considering the social progress that has been made in the last half of President Obama’s second term. Relevant social issues such as same-sex marriage and transgender bathroom policies affect American values, so it is absurd that these topics were not once brought up in the debates for the most polarized presidential race to date. 

Politicians have been known to shift their views. Donald Trump is criticized for doing it frequently, and Hillary Clinton has been accused of it over time. During the 2008 presidential race, Obama said he was not for same-sex marriage. After repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2011, he later continued his progressive ideals by shifting his stance on marriage equality, which was another major stepping stone in the fight for queer rights. Though the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that all states must allow same-sex marriage, the Republican Party has returned with a more conservative platform than in 2008, including an effort to repeal this ruling. This backwards stance was not once mentioned at the debates. 

Congress does not have the power to undo the Court’s decision, but if another case were to percolate back into the reach of the Court, it could be reversed depending on who appoints the ninth justice. Though repulsed by Trump, many Republicans will not vote any other way because of the stakes resting on the unfilled seat. Marriage equality may be safe for now, but the Court is likely to hear a case regarding transgender rights within the next presidential term.

Texas will soon be in the light of court examination for a discriminatory anti-transgender law similar to the one passed by North Carolina. “If there is a difference between their circuit and ours, it will give rise to an opportunity for a Supreme Court decision,” said Wendy Davis, a former Texas state senator and 2014 gubernatorial candidate. She explained that the president, presidential advisors and senators — the people who influence the appointment ­— understand this is an issue that will likely be heard by the new justice. Therefore, it will be a focus point for them when making the decision to select the nominee. 

“Supreme Court justices are humans too, and they read the news,” Davis said. Media outlets often play a large role in shaping public perception of social issues, but even then, the justice’s personal opinions will likely reflect the president that appoints them. Although there is increased morale for expanded transgender rights from most publications, there is a significant portion of the population uneducated about — or religiously opposed to — gender inclusive policies. Constituents on both sides of the issue are concerned, and that alone should have merited at least one debate question. Failing to talk about these issues makes it seem like they aren’t important. 

The next justice appointed to the Supreme Court has the power to shape the nation’s social policies. There is an undoubtable importance in their appointment, and the President has the final power to select a nominee. Whether the race in two weeks goes in the direction of Trump or Clinton, queer rights will be impacted within the next presidential term and deserved discussion at the three debates. 

Elkins is a journalism sophomore from Tyler. Follow him on Twitter @ethanerikelkins.