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CEDAR RAPIDS — Four Democratic presidential hopefuls will participate next month in a Cedar Rapids forum on the lives of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) people and other civil rights issues affecting rural America.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, retired admiral Joe Sestak and author Marianne Williamson have confirmed their participation. All Democratic candidates actively campaigning in Iowa have been invited.

The Sept. 20 forum at Coe College is hosted by One Iowa, The Gazette and The Advocate.

“This event will focus on LGBTQ people living in the heartland and their needs,” said One Iowa Interim Executive Director Courtney Reyes. “The overarching narrative that LGBTQ people in the U.S. live in urban coastal areas ignores the millions of LGBTQ individuals living and working in the middle of the country. We look forward to hearing what the presidential candidates have to say to this often overlooked, but politically powerful community.”

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The candidates will have time to make remarks before a one-on-one moderated question-and-answer session. Moderators will be Zach Stafford, editor-in-chief of The Advocate, Kennan Crow, One Iowa director of policy and advocacy, and politics reporter James Q. Lynch of The Gazette.

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 20 and the program in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This event is free. Required registration in advance is available at www.thegazette.com/2019LGBTQ.

Honorary co-chairs for the forum are U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa City, state Sens. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids and Zach Wahls of Coralville, state Rep. Liz Bennett of Cedar Rapids, Linn County Democratic Party Chairman Bret Niles and Hiawatha City Council member Aime Wichtendahl.

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