Story at a glance
- Kamala Harris made history as the first Black and Asian vice presidential candidate on a major-party ticket.
- Amidst the celebration, LGBTQ+ people were split on their reactions to the pick.
- Harris has distanced herself from previous decisions and opinions criticized by some from the LGBTQ+ community.
Within hours of Kamala Harris' historic nomination, Americans were digging into her past to better understand what her addition meant for the Democratic presidential ticket. For an LGBTQ+ community still fighting for political representation, her past record is both promising and concerning.
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket, calling it the “most historic, pro-equality ticket in history.”
This fall, we have the opportunity to vote for the most historic, pro-equality ticket in history. We’re proud to support @KamalaHarris and elect her as our next vice president. @JoeBiden pic.twitter.com/rHMd4WLgrc— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) August 11, 2020
It is certainly historic to have a Black and Asian vice presidential candidate on a major-party ticket. Against her opponent, Vice President Mike Pence, who has opposed several protections and rights for the LBGTQ+ community, Harris is a promising candidate, advocates say.
In her first elected position as district attorney for San Francisco, known for its progressive laws establishing LGBTQ+ rights, Harris established a hate crimes unit to investigate and prosecute anti-LGBTQ+ violence. As attorney general, she refused to defend the state law in the case of Prop. 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage. Like most of the Democratic field in the 2020 presidential campaign, she supported ending the transgender military ban and religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws, and reversing policies that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in adoption and housing. Additionally, her prospective chief-of-staff, Karine Jean-Pierre, is the first Black and LGBTQ+ person to serve as a chief of staff for a vice presidential candidate.
“Kamala Harris is a proven fighter for equality, safety and justice for all, and we know she will continue making [LGBTQ+] acceptance a priority in her history-making run alongside Joe Biden,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.
But others had more mixed reactions, recognizing that she was the more progressive candidate for LGBTQ+ rights, but raising concerns with her past record. Some critics on social media raised her past support for a law that made it a criminal misdemeanor for parents to allow kids in kindergarten through eighth grade to miss more than 10 percent of school days without a valid excuse, noting its effect on marginalized communities. Research has shown that LGBTQ+ students are at higher risk for increased absenteeism due to fear, avoidance and higher rates of depression and anxiety than their heterosexual peers.
Another bill that Harris supported in the past made websites liable for content facilitating even consensual sex trafficking or prostitution, forcing many of these platforms offline. For LGBTQ+ sex workers who are already at an increased risk of violence, this law was a sore point.
importantly: while kamala harris announces her vice presidential run, undoubtedly making everything worse, sex workers are hustling and taking up space, rapidly organizing their communities. even in a pandemic the mobilization and resilience of sex working people is unmatchable— whoreganizer (@whoreganizer) August 11, 2020
Harris' position on several of these issues has evolved in recent years, and in her first news conference after announcing her presidential run, the Washington Blade reported, she took "full responsibility" for past legal briefs that denied gender reassignment surgery for transgender inmates. On social media, some users seemed to accept that while there was more they wanted, Harris would do.
If Biden and Kamala get into office, we're going to still be marching for black lives, lgbt, kids in cages, bombings on innocent brown ppl. this shit isn't going to be solved in a term with pro-coppers and a man that was complicit in war crimes. Vote but remember the above.— milan (@milansturgis) August 12, 2020
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