Trans issues raised again during Haley v. DeSantis debate

Ron DeSantis (L) and Nikki Haley. (Screenshot via CNN/Facebook)

Republican presidential hopefuls Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley traded barbs and touted their anti-transgender positions and records over the course of a Jan. 10 debate hosted by CNN in Des Moines, Iowa.

The candidates were alone on stage, as the Republican frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, again declined to participate, while former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy did not qualify.

Hours before the debate began, Christie announced his exit from the race — and, in a “hot mic” moment, expressed doubts about the likelihood that either DeSantis or Haley is capable of taking on Trump, who has dominated polls of likely Republican primary voters for over a year.

The candidates’ two-hour debate veered into anti-trans territory quickly, with DeSantis arguing “it is wrong to sexualize the curriculum,” an apparent nod to the idea that LGBTQ inclusive materials in schools are inherently prurient or obscene.

“It’s wrong to tell a kindergartener, like Disney wanted to do, that you can change your gender, or tell a third grader that you’re born in the wrong body,” he said.

The Florida governor later accused his opponent of having an insufficiently anti-trans record, arguing that when Haley “was governor of South Carolina, they had a bill to protect girls from men going into the bathroom,” and “she killed it.”

“I will say, first of all, that was 10 years ago — we had a handful of kids that may have had that issue, and what I made very clear at that time in the state is girls go into girls’ bathrooms, boys go into boys’ bathrooms, and if there are any other exceptions, they use a private bathroom,” Haley responded.

“I have fought for women’s sports and making sure that biological boys are not women’s sports and I’ll continue to do that,” she said.

When responding to DeSantis, Haley also voiced her opposition to “any gender transitions” as well as “gender transformation or puberty blockers” before the age of 18.

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