Image Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images
2020 has been an incredibly turbulent political year. After months of anticipation and tireless campaigning on both sides, the race has finally been called; with 306 electoral votes, former Vice President Joe Biden has won. As we examine his platform and understand what to expect in the coming years, it is also crucial that we look at soon-to-be Vice President Kamala Harris’s past as well, particularly her work regarding the LGBTQ+ community. She has been criticized heavily by those on the left for her supposedly “mixed” stance on queer rights, although historically, she has been in overwhelming support of them.
Kamala Harris’s record isn’t necessarily spotless. In one particular 2015 case, she was slammed for fighting against a trans woman’s right to gender reaffirming surgery. She later clarified in 2019 that the legal papers were drawn up without her consultation, and that although she now regrets it, she was forced to argue the case as part of her duty to the state. Harris has also been vocal about her lack of support for the decriminalization of sex work, which the LGBTQ+ community has historically been incredibly involved in. She defended this viewpoint in 2015 by stating that “prostitution is linked to the transmission of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases”. (Numerous studies have proven that the criminalization of sex work is actually what drives up the rate of STIs.)
However, Harris has a much longer record of doing good for the community. Before securing a seat in the Senate, Kamala Harris was famous for her work as the Attorney General of California; she has described herself as a “progressive prosecutor”. Although she has brought down the iron fist in many marijuana-related cases and has defended the death penalty (although she has stated she does not support it), Harris has proven to at least be tolerant of the queer community. In 2008, she publicly denounced Prop 8, which called for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and later petitioned to repeal it in 2011. In 2012, she received the George Mascone Ally Award for LGBT Advocacy for her role in creating the LGBT Victim Advocacy Unit and an LGBT Sexual Assault Awareness Program. In addition, she even officiated the first legal same-sex marriage in California in 2013. Kamala Harris has also written and sponsored almost every proposal to secure trans rights, including, for example, a resolution nationally recognizing June as the official pride month. Harris was also responsible for the 2018 “Do Not Harm” Act, which would only protect religious freedom if it did not inflict harm on others; this would protect LGBTQ+ people from being discriminated against on the basis of religion. In the same year, Harris helped introduce the Gay And Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act; this was in retaliation to those who committed hate crimes against queer individuals and defended themselves by arguing that the victim’s sexuality/gender orientation was to blame.
Kamala Harris is still a controversial political figure for those on the left and right, and her policies have not always been so progressive. However, the work she has done for the LGBTQ+ should not go ignored, and she has taken great care in drawing up and detailing a plan for how to deal with political queer issues once she is in office. We can only hope she will continue her support for marginalized groups and take accountability for mistakes she has made in the past as we look to the future.