U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California is no newcomer to the fight for transgender rights, she stressed as the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to do a video interview for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Transform the White House series.
Harris set up a victims’ assistance program when she became San Francisco district attorney in 2003, and in 2006, she convened the nation’s first seminar for prosecutors on how to defeat the “trans panic” defense in criminal trials, she told NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling in the interview.
“I have a long-standing commitment to fighting for the rights of transgender people, for the dignity of transgender people,” Harris said. “I have a long-standing awareness based on my experience in the community of knowing the lives that people are living every day, that are burdened with fear, that are burdened with unequal access to everything from employment to a response from law enforcement to access to health care to access to housing — it covers the gamut, and I’m fully aware of it, and again, this is not new to me.”
The senator also spoke to what some see as the only blot on her LGBTQ rights record, that as attorney general of California she filed a legal brief arguing against gender-confirmation surgery for a prisoner in the state. She pointed out that when she was attorney general, the state’s Department of Corrections was a client of hers, and she had to represent its interests — but she worked behind the scenes to get the policy changed so that any inmate requiring such procedures could receive them.
Other Democratic presidential candidates who have been interviewed for the project are former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand (now out of the race), and Amy Klobuchar; and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Watch Harris’s interview below.