by Joe Siegel
(This is the first in a planned series of interviews with local media professionals who have covered candidates as they announce their presidential candidacy.)
The 2020 presidential campaign already has a slew of contenders vying for the Democratic nomination. US Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harries of California, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have launched their candidacies, along with former San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julian Castro.
Much of a candidate’s past can be mined from LGBTQ media coverage in their home state or city, much as Chicago’s Windy City Times made national headlines in 2009 when the newspaper reported out the complete answers then-state senate candidate Obama gave in 1996 to a questionnaire from Outlines newspaper (which merged with Windy City Times in 2000). That survey showed that Obama supported marriage equality, even though he supported only civil unions for same-sex couples in 2009.
According to Paul Schindler, founding editor of New York City’s Gay City News, Gillibrand — New York’s junior senator since 2009 — has proven to be a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights.
“Very early in her tenure she jumped into the fight against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in a very big way,” Schindler said. “She pressed then-Sen. Carl Levin (Michigan), the Armed Services chair, to hold a hearing early in 2010, before the Obama administration had signalled full willingness to try to get the repeal done that year.”
Gillibrand was quoted as saying, in one of the paper’s reports published in 2010, “We’ve lost more than 13,000 of our best and brightest to this unjust and discriminatory policy,” By repealing this policy, “we will increase America’s strength — both militarily and morally.”
Schindler added, “Beyond that, she has taken the full range of pro-equality positions. I remember one Human Rights Campaign dinner in New York City where she spoke movingly about a transgender youth she knew.”
As for Castro, who served as Mayor of San Antonio for five years and later served as President Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a 2016 story in the Dallas Voice reported that under Castro’s tenure as mayor, “The city extended partner benefits to employees, appointed an LGBT liaison, and worked on various initiatives targeting homeless LGBT youth.”
Castro also proved to be supportive of LGBTQ rights as Housing Secretary: “In his capacity as secretary, Castro has winnowed out a number of disparities facing LGBT homeowners and renters. ‘We’re at the beginning of looking at what executive action we can take to extend protections to the LGBT community in the Fair Housing Act. This is something that could be very impactful,’ Castro said during his recent visit to the Metroplex.”
As for Harris, she won the support of the LGBTQ community in San Francisco when she announced her bid for US Senate.
According to a 2015 story by Matthew Bajko in the Bay Area Reporter: “‘She is a longtime champion of the LGBT community, as she is a longtime champion of universal human and civil rights. It is in her DNA,’ said gay state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). ‘I am ready and prepared to assist anyway I can.’”
Gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener said Harris “is a stellar candidate and a huge champion for the LGBT community. Most importantly, a lot of people know she will be a very effective senator and also a very dynamic presence on the national stage. Kamala has a great combination of smarts and charisma.”
“Kamala Harris was at my side at City Hall in 2004 performing marriages long before she became [California] attorney general,” said Leno, referring to when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city officials to marry same-sex couples in early February of that year, unleashing a nearly decade-long fight for marriage equality in the Golden State, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
“At the time, Harris was newly sworn in to her role as the city’s district attorney. Six years later she pledged not to defend the state’s ban against same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, in federal court should she be elected attorney general,” Bajko reported.
Warren also has a strong record of support for LGBTQ equality. According to the Georgia Voice: “Warren has maintained a strong pro-LGBTQ legislative record throughout her term as senator. Warren has a 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard because she has voted in favor of every LGBTQ rights reform since 2013, when she was elected.”
In a letter for Pride Month 2017, Warren expressed her support of the LGBTQ community, saying, “Pride shows our country at its best: diverse, inclusive, united, and strong.”
In an endorsement for Warren for US Senate in 2012, Boston-based The Rainbow Times wrote, “Last March, she called on [Obama] to come out for same-sex marriage; and early on, Warren voiced support for the Democratic Party platform to endorse marriage equality. … Warren not only favors repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but also promises to champion gay rights in the Senate. Recently at the Boston HRC fundraiser and gala, she pledged to be a ‘loud voice,’ a true leader. … In fact, Warren takes us and our community’s issues seriously on a host of topics from marriage equality to employment non-discrimination to bullying and safe schools.”