Sen. Kamala Harris column: My agenda is equality and dignity for all

Kamala Harris in Nevada

Special to the Spectrum

I’ll never forget Valentine’s Day of 2004. I was San Francisco District Attorney at the time, and two days earlier, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples for the first time. I was on my way to the airport, and I decided I had to stop at City Hall.

I remember looking around and everywhere you looked there were families that were just full of joy. You could feel the energy. I walked right up those City Hall steps and I started performing marriages myself.

Fifteen years later, we’ve made so much progress –– and yet fundamental rights and equality for LGBTQ+ Americans remain under attack. The stakes in this election are monumental, and nobody knows that better than the LGBTQ+ community.

The sad truth is that the Trump administration has done everything it can to turn back the clock on the LGBTQ+ community –– they’ve argued federal civil rights laws don’t protect gay workers, gutted anti-discrimination protections for trans students, banned trans Americans from serving in our military, and more.

Well, enough is enough. I’ve been on the front lines fighting for equality for my entire career, from performing those marriages on the steps of City Hall, to refusing to defend Proposition 8 as Attorney General. And I plan to bring that fight to the White House to ensure that LGBTQ+ people can live proudly and openly.

Recently, at the Power of Our Pride Town Hall hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, I introduced my agenda to provide equality and dignity for all. I want to make clear: I won’t be content just reversing Trump’s discriminatory policies –– we need to go much further.

As president, I’ll start by appointing a chief advocate for LGBTQ+ affairs in the White House. They will serve as the point person to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to properly supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Among their first priorities will be addressing the rise in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals –– and in particular, combatting the horrific epidemic of violence against trans women of color.

I intend to work with transgender leaders and advocates to implement a comprehensive agenda to create opportunity and build a more inclusive America. I’ll establish a transgender fellowship to help lift up promising young leaders within that community. And I will be intentional about appointing LGBTQ+ people –– including transgender and gender non-conforming individuals — to leadership roles throughout my administration, from my cabinet to the federal bench and beyond. Our government and our courts work best when they reflect the people they serve.

I also believe that comprehensive health care must meet the unique needs of LGBTQ+ people — including transition-related care, HIV treatment and prevention, and comprehensive reproductive health services. I’ll work to get my legislation passed that requires public and private health plans to cover PrEP, and I’ll take action against pharmaceutical companies to make the drug affordable. My health care plan will also guarantee coverage of gender confirmation surgery and other transition-related medical care.

The bottom line is this: America cannot fulfill its great promise until every American –– regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion –– can grow up knowing that their rights and opportunities will never be limited because of their identity; that they will be not simply tolerated, but loved and embraced.

Building an America that turns these aspirations into reality will be a core mission of my presidency. The LGTBQ+ community’s fight is all of our fight, and when I’m president, no one will ever be made to fight alone.