How The Candidates Celebrated Pride In Des Moines

You couldn’t walk more than a block at Des Moines’ Pride Fest this Saturday without bumping into a presidential candidate. Bernie Sanders attracted throngs of young people as he made his way through E. Locust Street in the East Village. Kirsten Gilllibrand had a local drag queen walk her around. And Pete Buttigieg gave a speech to hundreds of on-lookers before watching a renewal of vows ceremony to celebrate ten years of marriage equality in Iowa.

The Starting Line team was on hand for all of the day’s events. You can read our previous story on the morning happenings. Here’s what happened in the afternoon:

Sanders Mobbed By Supporters

After speaking at the Pride candidate forum, Sanders waded through the main thoroughfare of the festival, greeting fans and onlookers as went. Sometimes crowds formed a dozen-people deep around him. While all the candidates who showed up at Pride today had specific messages aimed at winning over attendees, the reaction Sanders received was a good reminder of his still-strong standing with young people overall.

Photo by Julie Fleming
Photo by Julie Fleming

Gillibrand Gets A Tour

Around 1:30, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand returned to 5th St. in the East Village, where she danced and served up drinks last night. She stopped by The Blazing Saddle first to meet up with Vanna B. Rosenberg, a local drag queen, and Kyla Paterson, the first trans woman president of the Stonewall Democratic Caucus.

Both have personally endorsed Gillibrand’s campaign.

Photo by Julie Fleming

Gillibrand spent her tour up Locust St. stopping at booths and talking to the owners, including a Henna stand, where she got a flower on her bicep, and a general merchandise stand where she tried on hats.

Photo by Julie Fleming

She also stopped for pictures with people and signed programs and Pride flags.

Photo by Nikoel Hytrek

Cory Booker Meets LGBTQ Youth

Booker was the last to stop by the Iowa Safe Schools Tailgate, arriving right around 1:00 pm. Amongst a rather large press pool, comparatively, Booker accepted a Free Mom Hug and spent some time taking selfies, as he usually does. He also stopped by the Safe Schools merch tent and scored an “Honor Rolls. Not Gender Roles.” t-shirt and a couple of buttons.

Photo by Josh Cook

Candidate Address Rights At Forum

A number of candidates took turns speaking to a crowd on a sun-drenched plaza down the hill from the Iowa Capitol, laying out their plans for equality and taking shots at Donald Trump’s administration. Here’s Paige Godden’s write-up of the main takeaway from each candidate:

Beto O’Rourke

“I will make sure this country does not just tolerate or respect our differences, but that we fully embrace them as our foundation to our strength and our success and our security.”

O’Rourke told the crowd that Iowa has a lot of work to do before all people are considered equal thanks to conversion therapy still being legal here. He took a shot at Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for signing a bill that strips Medicaid beneficiaries of their right to gender reassignment surgeries, and at his home state of Texas, where he said people can still be seen as “too gay” to adopt a child.

“That’s why as president I will make sure I will sign into the law to make sure no states can take away the rights of any American,” O’Rourke said.

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Bernie Sanders

“The goal of our campaign is not complicated. It is about justice. It is about economic justice, it is about racial justice, it is about environmental justice, and it is about social justice.”

Sanders promised to end discrimination in all forms, which includes discrimination with regard to employment, housing, military service, and marriage. The senator called Donald Trump a president “who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a xenophobe, who is a religious bigot, and who is a homophobe.”

Sanders drew the largest crowd of any candidate at the forum and was applauded several times, especially after he mentioned he believes health care is a human right and that the United States needs to take on the fossil fuel industry and become more energy efficient.

John Delaney

“At no point in my life was I discriminated against because of the color of my skin, because the God I worship or my sexual identity. And no one should. Everyone should have the same opportunity I had.”

The United States deserves leaders who will fight for immigration reform and vow to keep its citizens safe in their day-to-day lives and online, Delaney said. He said the country deserves a leader who will take on issues such as cyber-bullying in order to protect the LGBTQ community. “That’s what a responsible nation would do. That’s what real leaders would do,” Delaney said. “Actually build institutions in our society to give the opportunities I have and everyone has had. We can’t do this when we have a president that wakes up every day and divides the American people.”

Kirsten Gillibrand

“I will guarantee your right to adopt a child. I will guarantee your right to IVF treatments and other healthcare treatments that you need. I will guarantee your transgender treatments and medical procedures are covered by all insurance in America. I will ban conversion therapy.”

Gillibrand promised to be the most LGBTQ-friendly leader the world has ever seen. She said she believes deeply that every person should have a right to love the person they love, and no government, state or nation should be able to discriminate based on gender identity or sexuality. Gillibrand said she wants to create a gender X that citizens can use on their government documents, and believes transgender people should be able to serve in the military.

Marianne Williamson

“The whole point of America is you can be whoever you want to be. You can do whatever you want to do. Spread your wings and soar no matter who you are.”

Williamson reminded the crowd of the history of the LGBTQ movement in America. She said Pride festivals started as an act of defiance because for a long time it wasn’t okay to celebrate being gay. Williamson said she knew men who were traumatized by the idea of having to call their parents and tell them they were gay. “Thank God those days are over,” she said.

Tim Ryan

“We’re here in Congress and as presidential candidates to support you. To make sure that the constitutional protections that were in the founding documents are applied to every American across the board. As your president, I will make sure that happens.”

Ryan promised the crowd he will make sure he appoints justices to the Supreme Court and to federal courts that will uphold equality in the law in the United States. “I don’t think that should be too much to ask,” he said to applause.

Ryan said it’s also important to expand legislation that will help and protect kids in schools through the Safe Schools Act to make sure there isn’t discrimination in K-12.

Jay Inslee

“We have some good news from the state of Washington, but we know we aren’t done. The arc of the moral universe has not reached justice yet, and we have a lot more work to do.”

Inslee said there was an unfortunate incident in Washington when “due to a little bit of small-mindedness” a baker wouldn’t sell a wedding cake to a couple who loved one another who were the same gender. He was proud, he said, to be able to tell the crowd that yesterday Washington’s courts system made sure that wouldn’t happen again. Inslee also said he’s happy to know “that when we have a president who is so small-minded and so petty in his instincts and is so devoted to division and fear that he wouldn’t let a Pride flag fly over the United States,” that the Pride flag could still fly high over the Washington capitol building.


by Josh Cook, Paige Godden, Nikoel Hytrek, and Pat Rynard
Posted 6/8/19

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