For eight years, Joe Biden used the office of the vice president in a way none of his predecessors had — to advance equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. He famously nudged President Obama to support marriage equality. He helped lead the effort to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He met with transgender children and their parents and worked to protect LGBTQ students from bullying, harassment and discrimination in our schools.
As openly LGBTQ leaders in Senator Kamala Harris’s home state of California, we know she will do the same. We’ve seen her do it firsthand for the last two decades.
In every public office she has held, Senator Harris has championed civil rights and social justice for the LGBTQ community. She has exemplified what it means to be an ally — to not only support our community, but to listen to and learn from us. She has worked tirelessly to understand the challenges we face and how to use the levers of government to address disparities in our health and well-being.
As district attorney in San Francisco, Kamala convened her colleagues from counties across the United States to examine the so-called “gay and trans panic” defense, a horrific attempt at justification of a hate crime in which a perpetrator blames their action on the sexual orientation or gender identity of their victim. She was one of the first elected officials anywhere in the United States to officiate same-sex weddings, when the city unilaterally began allowing same-sex couples to marry in February 2004.
In 2014, as California’s attorney general, Kamala worked with Equality California and the state legislature to ban the defense from California courts — the first state in the nation to do so. She continued her pioneering support for marriage equality by refusing to defend Proposition 8, the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage — a decision that ultimately led to the policy’s defeat, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only the state had standing to defend it.
In the U.S. Senate, she has introduced legislation to expand access to life-saving HIV prevention medications and to force the U.S. Census Bureau to allow people to identify themselves as LGBTQ in the decennial survey. She has championed the Equality Act and a federal ban of lynching and demanded answers from the Trump administration when a transgender asylum seeker living with HIV died in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.
The fight for civil rights and social justice — for the people — is personal to her. As the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Kamala’s unique experiences have informed her understanding of how government can harm or improve the lives of marginalized people. Growing up in California’s Bay Area, Kamala watched as her parents faced discrimination because of their race and immigrant identities. She saw a generation of gay men confront a deadly epidemic and lose their lives because of government inaction.
The next four years will require more than a president and vice president who passively accept members of the LGBTQ community. Undoing the damage done to our community — and the diverse communities to which we belong — by Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s administration will require champions for equality who aggressively pursue civil rights and social justice. Achieving full, lived equality for all LGBTQ people will take leaders with grit and tenacity and the audacity to imagine a world in which all people are safe, healthy and empowered.
Striving to create such a world has been the cause of Kamala Harris’s life.
Senator Harris has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to civil rights and social justice for all LGBTQ+ people throughout her career. As district attorney, attorney general and now a United States senator, Kamala Harris has used the power of her office to fight for us. LGBTQ Californians know Kamala Harris, and we know she will continue that fight as our next vice president.
Robert Garcia is the mayor of Long Beach California and one of 17 keynote speakers for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Rick Chavez Zbur is the executive director of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.