California's Gay-Supportive Attorney General on What's Next for Prop. 8
BY Neal Broverman
June 06 2012 12:55 PM ET
On a lighter note, you recently attended an LGBT garden party at the home of Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The Huffington Post described your speech as you “held forth with a preacher's fire that could have only been learned through years of Baptist church osmosis.” What do you think of that description?
(Laughs). I did grow up in a Baptist church.
How does it feel to be honored with the George Moscone Ally Award by Christopher Street West, the organization behind L.A. Pride?
I’m extremely proud at this time in the heat of the struggle and the fight for marriage equality that I received the honor of this award as an ally. It has been a priority for me since almost birth of always feeling the need to be vigilant in fighting for equal rights for everyone. I carried that spirit and commitment as D.A. of San Francisco, when I convened prosecutors across the country and brought them to California to do a training and talk about defeating the gay panic defense. I’ve also pushed for punishment for gay hate crimes. I also have a victims’ services unit that services LGBT victims of crime. I’ve also taken on the difficult subject of gay rape. LGBT issues have been a longstanding focus for me. As attorney general, I also made a point of saying we would not use the limited resources of our office to defend Prop. 8, a law I believe is unconstitutional.
On top of all that, the award is named after George Moscone (the former mayor of San Francisco, who was assassinated with Harvey Milk). I know the Moscone family, and I feel I’m in line with how he served and his early commitment to this issue. I always thought of him as a hero. I’m very honored and humbled.
The California Senate passed a bill making conversion therapy illegal. Would that stand up to legal challenges?
I have not looked at the legality of the conversion therapy bill, so I can’t say with certainty yet. But I’m absolutely opposed to the idea of conversion therapy. It’s harmful and misguided. Being gay is not a disorder or something that needs to be treated.
What can the A.G.’s office do about bullying? It’s becoming the foremost issue in the LGBT struggle.
A large part of my focus in criminal justice policy is to be smarter in the way we use resources. Instead of reacting, let’s focus on the issue beforehand and prevent it from happening. The step before bullying is socialized isolation—I learned that from Laura Talmus and her nonprofit Beyond Differences. Laura's daughter had a severe health issue that made her completely isolated. After her daughter passed away, Laura created this nonprofit with teens and pre-teens, teaching other kids about social isolation and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to combat it. That isolation is a precursor to bullying and worse, like violence and suicide. I’ve done a lot with cyber-bullying, too, creating a whole e-crimes unit. Of the many beautiful uses of technology, it’s got a duality. Technology and social sites allow people who are isolated, like the physically handicapped and seniors, to connect to the world. But for a teen or pre-teen who’s bullied online, they often become isolated because they experience it by themselves. There needs to be rules in these social networking environments.