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  • Victoria A. Brownworth

Biden picks Harris for historic VP spot

August 12, 2020 Philadelphia Gay News

After months of secrecy and strategic leaks from his campaign, former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden revealed his running mate August 11: California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Harris ran for president last year and was briefly the frontrunner before dropping out last December citing lack of funds.

Harris is an historic choice. The daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, Harris will be both the first Black woman and first Asian-American vice-presidential candidate. Harris was previously the first female, first Black and first Asian-American Attorney General of California, She was also the first Black woman and Asian-American woman District Attorney of San Francisco.

Harris is a long-time LGBTQ ally, with her work for the community dating back decades.

Reaction to Biden’s choice was swift and overwhelmingly positive from Democrats.

Lambda Award-winning novelist and AIDS activist Greg Herren, who had been a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2016, told PGN, “I thought tears of joy was something I would never experience again. My social media exploded into so much joy and excitement yesterday, that I again experienced hope.”

Herren, who was also previously a Democratic strategist who worked with Stonewall Democrats, added, “I also see that women are not going to take what they did in 2016, will not back down, and are ready to fight back this time, which also makes me teary.”

Maddy Gold, a design professor at a local university, told PGN that the choice made her “ecstatic and every other adjective. It’s been such a terrible year — this is just such good news, for once.” Harris had been Gold’s initial choice for president and she had hoped Biden would choose her for VP.

“It means so much to have a Black woman in this role,” Gold said, “particularly at this time, when we are out in the streets protesting for our lives and when Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.”

Gold, who identifies as a lesbian and has had many LGBTQ students said, “I am so glad that they can know they have a strong ally in Harris, one who has their back and will work to protect all of us in the LGBTQ community.”

Harris’s history with the LGBTQ community began officially when she was San Francisco DA. On Valentine’s Day 2004, Harris was among the first in the country to marry lesbian and gay couples. Then-Mayor (now Governor) Gavin Newsom had urged the county clerk’s office to begin issuing the marriage certificates, asserting that the state Constitution prohibited discrimination. California was then the only state other than Massachusetts to grant same-sex marriages.

While running for Attorney General in 2010, Harris asserted that she would not defend Prop 8, the Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act, which had banned same-sex marriages in California 2008 and was being litigated in the federal courts. After being elected, Harris declared her office would not defend the marriage ban.

In 2013, when Proposition 8 was overturned, Harris issued the order to begin marrying couples that day. There is vivid footage of gay and lesbian couples lined up to get marriage licenses and then-Attorney General Harris in front of news media, on the phone, issuing the directive that “You must start the marriages immediately!”

During Pride Month, Harris put a video of the event on her Twitter page.

As a senator, Harris is among the most progressive, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who also ran for president this year. Harris has supported healthcare reform and co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare for All legislation. She supports the federal legalization of marijuana, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the DREAM Act, a ban on assault weapons and progressive tax reform. She is a proponent of the Equality Act and had pledged to sign it into law when running for president.

Harris has consistently spoken out about anti-LGBT violence — especially against trans women of color, about the Trump trans military ban and about attempts to block healthcare for queer and trans people by the administration. She applauded the June Supreme Court ruling which banned anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination.

Harris gained a national profile for her pointed questioning of Trump administration officials during Senate hearings, including Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr.

During her intense grilling of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, she repeatedly asked him if he recognized Obergefell v. Hodges, the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, as “landmark Civil Rights legislation” similar to rulings on school desegregation. Kavanaugh refused to answer.

Many of Harris’s fellow senators issued congratulatory and supportive statements on social media. Pete Buttigieg, who was the first openly gay presidential candidate this year and won the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, said on Twitter, “Kamala Harris fights tirelessly for justice, dignity, and equality for all Americans. I’m thrilled she’s joining the ticket and can’t wait to call her my Vice President.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta tweeted a photo of Biden and Harris and noted, “This team is going to beat Trump like a drum.”

On hearing that Biden had chosen Harris, Trump deemed her “nasty” “fake” and “a phony.” He also said she was the “meanest” and “most horrible” and claimed she was “disrespectful” in her attacks on Biden during the Democratic primary when Harris had challenged Biden on his previous stance on busing.

Harris will debate Vice President Mike Pence in Salt Lake City on October 7.


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