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Op-ed: Simply Being Gay Shouldn't Guarantee LGBT Vote

Op-ed: Simply Being Gay Shouldn't Guarantee LGBT Vote


Responding to his opponent's recent Advocate op-ed urging voters to keep a San Diego city council seat LGBT, a straight politician argues that simply being gay shouldn't guarantee LGBT votes.

When I was in college at University of the Pacific, a dear friend who was struggling with his sexual orientation was the victim of a hate crime. After seeing the hurt my friend suffered, I committed to work as an ally to build safe communities free from harassment and threats of violence in our communities, workplaces, and schools. We must ensure equality for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, gender, race, or ethnicity.

Those basic values have driven me to make the decision to dedicate my professional life to public service. More than six years ago, gay San Diego City Council member Todd Gloria chose me to serve on his team. He valued my dedication to working class families, my commitment as an ally on the Human Rights Campaign San Diego Steering Committee, and my drive for delivering results for small, local business. Most of all, he knew that I cared about people, whether they are fighting for equality, improved neighborhood services, or safe streets. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work for a public servant who assembled a team that works to advance full equality for all people while handling the many other needs of his district.

Todd has been my mentor. He encouraged me to run for City Council. Why would LGBT people vote for me, a straight man, in what has historically been considered an LGBT council seat? I would say you should vote for someone you can trust to deliver results while always maintaining your values.

My trusted leadership and proven results are what our neighborhoods need. While it's true that I don't know what it's like to be gay, I do know what it's like to grow up as a member of a minority community facing nearly daily discrimination. I was raised in a Latino family in California's Central Valley. My family and I were the targets of racial slurs and sometimes even antigay epithets. My parents taught me at a young age that any individual's civil rights are in danger unless we protect them for everyone. That principle of basic equality underlies everything I do.

When President Obama won the election in 2008, he said, "Americans sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America."

That message and my experiences have transformed my view of the world -- igniting in me a passion for service as I see new possibilities of action, unity, and equality.

Our great city has already been acknowledged for providing nondiscriminatory workplaces, recognizing every relationship status, offering programs and services to LGBT families, following law enforcement practices that are inclusive, and fostering a relationship with the LGBT community.

But there's still more work to be done. All voters have my commitment to continue leading in all areas of inclusion, in addition to creating an LGBT public municipal employees group. My staff will mirror the district, and we will have caring and talented people to serve the residents of District 3. As do people everywhere, the citizens of San Diego's Third District deserve a representative who will champion groundbreaking programs for the LGBT community. I look forward to building trust with the LGBT community, improving public safety, creating affordable housing for LGBT senior citizens, and designating an LGBT-themed collection at the Hillcrest-Mission Hills Library. Voters have my commitment to lead our city to a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.

Though we've won the battle for marriage equality in California, we need to continue to fight anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace and in housing decisions, particularly for transgender people.

I am happy and proud to live in such a vibrant and diverse district. Now I want to do even more to serve these communities that I have grown to love. I want to represent you, not as a Latino or a straight man, but as a public servant who has worked hard over the past six years alongside Todd Gloria to better our neighborhoods.

My commitment as the next council member for District 3 will be exactly the same as it has been while serving openly gay council member Todd Gloria: that you are always listened to and always know what actions are being taken with the issues you care about. I've worked behind the scenes to name Harvey Milk Street and install the Pride flag that flies year-round at University Avenue and Normal Street. More importantly, that the unique issues facing the LGBT community are treated with the same urgency as any other issue in San Diego.

And that is why LBGT voters can be confident voting for me for San Diego City Council.

ANTHONY BERNAL serves as Councilmember Todd Gloria's representative in San Diego's downtown area. He is running to fill Gloria's seat after his boss is termed out next year. Click here to read a commentary from Anthony Bernal's opponent, Chris Ward.

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