At Des Moines pride festival, O’Rourke keeps eye on the prize: defeating Trump

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DES MOINES, IOWA – This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Iowa passing marriage equality. And presidential candidates hoping to win over allies of or in the LGBTQ community took full advantage this weekend at Des Moines’ Capital City Pride Fest.

Former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke, with a rainbow wristband, ran a 5k early Saturday morning to kick off their day showing support for the Iowa LGBTQ community. As president, he would sign the Equality Act, he said, legislation that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, the workplace. The bill recently passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. House.

The pride fest, which organizers claim is the state’s largest LGBTQ event, is held in Des Moines’ historic East Village on Saturday. Several streets were closed to traffic, allowing candidates, including O’Rourke, to dart in and out of vendors’ tents and unsuspecting Iowans to meet supporters, shaking hands and taking photos.

To provide a platform for the many candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, the pride festival organized a forum directly outside the Iowa capitol building, so each presidential candidate who was in town could have the opportunity to speak to attendees.

O’Rourke started his speech to attendees by thanking his fellow running mates, and asked the crowd to commit to the eventual Democratic nominee.

“Let’s make this commitment to one another at this moment…every single one of us will do everything we can to make sure she or he is successful in defeating Donald Trump,” O’Rourke said, as he was met with applause.

The most recent CNN/Des Moines Register poll, published Saturday, shows former Vice President Joe Biden is the top presidential pick of the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Biden is also the front runner in national and Texas polls.

If crowd sizes and enthusiasm for politics were any indication this weekend in Des Moines, candidates hoping to win the Iowa Caucus will want to prove that they are an ally for the issues the community cares about. Capital City Pride estimates over 10,000 people attended in 2018. And enthusiasm for meeting the candidates was equally as evident at the Iowa Capital building.

O’Rourke went on the offense against Trump, saying the President’s rhetoric has consequences beyond just being offensive.

“It fundamentally changes who we are as a country…you do not have an epidemic of violence against transgender Americans until you have a president who dishonors the service of transgender Americans with his transgender troop ban,” O’Rourke said. “He’s invited the violence and the intolerance and the hatred that will divide this country ever after unless each one of us stand up against it.”

Following his appearances at pride Saturday, O’Rourke will be one of more than 15 candidates speaking at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids Sunday evening.

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