WASHINGTON - Some days are hard for Kierra Johnson to even get out of bed.
Johnson, a black, queer woman, said life under the Trump administration has been demoralizing: "So many parts of your identity are being attacked."
"Black people are being killed in the streets, queer people are being kicked out of their homes and out of jobs and out of housing," she said. "Sometimes it's just hard to get up in the morning and keep trudging along."
But Johnson, 43, said the approach of the 2020 election has raised her hopes that Trump will be defeated by a Democrat.
"It's hard to find things to be excited and happy about during these political and cultural times. And yet almost every single Democratic candidate has an LGBTQ justice issue in their platform," she said.
"That's a big win."
Like Johnson, a number of voters within the LGBTQ community have found themselves worried under President Donald Trump's tenure, advocates and voters told USA TODAY. And their voices will be key as Democrats look to energize their base and take back the White House next November.
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Voters who identify as LGBT made up 6% of the electorate in the 2018 midterms, according to NBC News exit polling. While it's a relatively small percentage, the bloc of voters has overwhelming supported Democrats: In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won voters who identified as LGBT 77 percent to 14 percent over Republican Donald Trump.
On Thursday evening, nine Democratic candidates will make their pitch to voters in an LGBTQ-focused town hall televised on CNN in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign. The town hall comes the day before National Coming Out Day, an annual event celebrating LGBTQ awareness.
"We are living in a really, really dark moment where a lot of terrible harm and deep pain is being inflicted on so many of our community that we love and care about," said Sharon Mcgowan, chief strategy officer and legal director of Lambda Legal, an organization founded to help achieve full civil rights for members of the LGBTQ community. "We each need to step up as much as we can to acknowledge that we have a role to play."
Legislation a top priority
Sarah Massey, director of communications for the National LGBTQ Task Force, said she has seen people in the community become more engaged after the Trump presidency.
"Trump is a reaction to our great progress," she said. "When we see ourselves showing up, protesting, marching, the LGBTQ dance parties in front of Trump Tower, we're inspired."
A few months after Trump's inauguration, LGBTQ demonstrators took to the streets of Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and several other cities across the nation to protest the new president. At the time, it was one of the largest protests since Trump took office, according to the BBC.
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With the increase in interest comes a focus on tangible changes voters can connect to.
Passage of the Equality Act, which would provide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, is among the top priorities for members of the LGBTQ community, Massie said. The House of Representatives has passed the legislation, but the bill has not been brought up in the Senate. A Trump administration spokesperson told CNN the president supports equality for all, but doesn't support the Equality Act due to the inclusion of "poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights."
"From launching a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality to pledging to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, President Trump will continue to protect and empower all members of the LGBTQ community across this country," said Sarah Matthews, deputy press secretary for Trump's reelection campaign.
Gillian Branstetter, media relations manager with the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund, said the first thing a new, Democratic administration should do is rollback Trump's policies affecting the LGBTQ community, in particular those impacting transgender people.
Trump earlier this year banned transgender people from serving in the military and implemented a rule that gives health care workers the ability to refuse services on religious grounds - moves that advocates say disproportionately effect and harm LGBTQ people. Trump's Justice Department also recently took the side of companies who fired employees for their sexual orientation or being transgender. A case in front of the Supreme Court will decide whether those people are protected by federal civil rights laws.
But one thing filling trans voters with hope is the conversation surrounding their community, Branstetter said.
"Often times, I think, trans people feel like they need to plead to have their issues addressed," she said. "We're very fortunate to now have an array of candidates who are flat out eager to talk about trans people, to talk with trans people and tell the rest of the country why supporting transgender equality is so important."
Most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls have repeatedly brought up LGBTQ rights throughout the campaign trail.
Presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is openly gay, has talked about coming out and how he would rollback several of Trump's policies. Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, has discussed transgender people needing access to abortions and stressing their inclusion in the conversation around reproductive rights.
In addition, several Democratic candidates, including Castro and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have brought attention to at least 18 trans women that have been killed in the United States this year, with the majority of them being black trans women.
Voters focused on wide swath of issues
Most candidates - including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Warren, who are the highest polling Democrats - have announced support for the Equality Act, and have added specific points in their policy proposals to address LGBTQ issues.
But LGBTQ voters aren't just focused on issues specific to their community.
Lisa Erin, from Los Angeles, said her main priority in 2020 is to make sure a candidate will support continued access to quality health care for people with disabilities. Erin, 38, has a 6-year-old daughter with Down syndrome.
"I always have to put my kid first and I'm most concerned about her continuing access to what she needs to be in the world," Erin said. She added she is of course concerned about issues in the LGBTQ community but feels privileged to live in California, where she says she has more protections.
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Erin said she worries that Medicaid will be cut for people with disabilities, especially children, under a second term of the Trump Administration.
"It makes me worry when I see the administration put so much priority on benefits for the wealthy," she said, mentioning recent tax cuts.
Erin said her top two candidates are Sen. Kamala Harris and Warren. But she conceded although both candidates have some issues in their records related to the LGBTQ community, she still leans toward them "in the interest of not letting the perfect get in the way of the good."
"I don't think there is a single candidate that doesn't have some problems," Erin said.
Troy Bodnar, 53, said his top issue is the economy. Bodnar, who lives in San Francisco and is a registered Republican, said he believes the country is heading towards a recession.
"I know who I can blame for that," Bodnar said. He did not support Trump in 2016 nor will he support the president in 2020.
Bodnar said he is leaning toward voting for Buttigieg because of the "energy that he brings to the campaign" and he thinks the South Bend Mayor is "going in the right track in terms of what he wants to do in the country."
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However if Buttigieg is not the Democratic nominee, Bodnar said he wouldn't support Biden, Warren or Sanders. Originally from Ohio, Bodnar said he would write in former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, if it came down to that.
Bodnar noted he was president Log Cabin Republicans of San Francisco when Trump was elected in 2016. He resigned several months into the Trump Administration and left the Republican Party for a time.
"They're setting us back. They're setting us way back," he said of the Trump Administration.
The Log Cabin Republicans, which works to advocate for equal rights for LGBTQ Americans within the Republican Party, announced in August that they were supporting Trump's reelection campaign.
"This is the party that Trump has helped make possible by moving past the culture wars that dominated the 1990s and early 2000s, in particular by removing gay rights as a wedge issue from the old Republican playbook," the group wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post earlier this year. "And since taking office, President Trump has followed through on many of his commitments to the United States, including taking bold actions that benefit the LGBTQ community."
Ashley Mack, however, said Trump's policies and influence within the Republican Party has negatively impacted her and her family. Mack, based in Alexandria, Va., said her wife retired from the military about a month ago and were planning to move their family to Florida. The two women have a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old.
Mack, 45, said their plan changed after the 2018 midterm election, when Republican Ron DeSantis won the Florida governor's race and Republican Rick Scott was elected to the U.S. Senate. Mack said she and her wife put the move on hold because of fear that their civil rights would not be protected. The family has stayed in Virginia because "we felt as though our lives would not be jeopardy when it came to the legality."
She said it's important to her that a candidate nominate Supreme Court Justices that will protect the civil liberties of the LGBTQ community. She doesn't have a favorite candidate yet, but said she will support the Democratic nominee.
"As far as 2020 election goes, I don't have any confidence that Donald Trump will appoint anyone (to the Supreme Court) that basically is going to look at the Constitution and see that these two females are married and they should be treated equally under the law," Mack said.
A battle in court
The courts are one major priority for the LGBTQ community, Branstetter said. She noted the importance of court rulings that have pushed LGBTQ rights forward, including the 2015 Supreme Court decision that ruled same-sex couples have the right to marry.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will decide whether gay and transgender people are covered by a federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex. A decision likely won't come until next year. The court is seemingly split on their decision and the deciding vote may come down to Trump's two appointees: associate justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Supreme Court Tuesday, calling on the court to rule that they are protected by the federal law.
Flags with equal signs, light blue, pink and white flags, and rainbow flags dotted the rally as chants of "hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go," broke out.
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Johnson was one of the many any attendance. She said as hard as it is to keep hope at times, it's moments like that, outside the Supreme Court, that remind her who she is fighting for. As the mother of a two-year-old and a 9-year-old, Johnson said she wants a president that will continue to bring progress to a society that will allow her to raise her children to not be afraid of trying to figure out who they are.
She noted her 9-year-old child recently put on a pin that declared their pronouns as they/them.
"I don't know where my kid is yet but they're learning and they're trying to figure out what gender means to them, and I want my kids to grow up in an environment, in communities where they can do that without fear," she said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: LGBTQ voters looking to oust Donald Trump in 2020