Republican Rep. Ed Royce wholeheartedly endorsed former Assemblymember Young Kim to take his 39th Congressional District seat when he retires at the end of this year. Royce has represented sections of northern Orange, eastern Los Angeles and southwestern San Bernardino counties since 1992, receiving a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign on LGBT equality. For 20 years, Kim worked for Royce and according to her subsequent record in the Assembly, espoused many of the same anti- LGBT positions. But Kim, who is in a tight “toss-up” race with pro-equality Democrat Gil Cisneros, is apparently now trying to hide her anti-LGBT voting record.
Asked about her commitment to protecting healthcare access for LGBT folks and people of color during a meeting at Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton on Oct. 3, Kim cited her Assembly vote to “recognize individuals that are making contributions to our community [including] the LGBTQ community.”
She was apparently referring to a 2015 resolution that established June as Pride Month—a resolution that sailed through the Assembly with a vote of 65-0. Kim failed, however, to recognize Pride Month on social media, through a statement, or by participating in any district celebrations. In 2016, Kim also supported Democrat Assemblymember Phil Ting’s bill, AB 1732, that passed 55-19, requiring single-user restrooms to be gender-neutral.
That 2016 vote was ironic since a cornerstone of Kim’s 2013 campaign for the 65th Assembly seat was her promise to overturn out Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s AB 1266—a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Aug. 12, 2013 that allows public school students to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identities. “That doesn’t represent the values of this community,” she told the Orange County Register in 2014.
Kim’s campaign ads were condemned by The LGBT Center of Orange County. “Young Kim should be ashamed of the campaign ads. They are bigoted and will encourage discrimination and increased violence against an already vulnerable group of children,” Center Executive Director Kevin O’Grady said in a statement. Local school districts, meanwhile, contested the candidate’s claims that the measure would lead to harassment of women and girls, asserting its passage was positive for students.
Once elected, Kim voted against a series of ultimately-successful bills in the state legislature that: required the California Energy Commission to implement outreach programs that included LGBT businesses; banned government travel to states that passed laws discriminating against LGBT residents; required the State Department of Education to assess information on resources provided to LGBT students; urged U.S. Congress to enact the Equality Act of 2015, which would extend protections of the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity; and prohibited state agencies from entering into contracts valued over $100,000 with businesses that discriminate against employees or dependents based on their actual or perceived gender identities.
Kim, who also opposes same-sex marriage, told the Orange County Register that she believes sexual orientation and gender identity are not immutable characteristics, but rather products of “the environment one grows up in.”
“Young Kim has disrespected and actively voted against the LGBTQ community and for her to suggest otherwise is crass and shameless,” Gil Cisneros’s Campaign Manager Nic Jordan told the Los Angeles Blade. “At a time when LGBTQ rights are under constant attack by President Trump and his administration, Young Kim refuses to call out hate, stand up to bullying, and do what’s right. Gil Cisneros has served alongside LGBTQ servicemembers, has met with LGBTQ leaders of the 39th, and is ready to stand with the LGBTQ community and fight for equality, respect, and inclusion for all.”
An Oct. 9 Politico poll has the 39th CD race as a “toss-up,” with Kim hoping to become the first Korean American woman elected to Congress in a district that is 25.8 percent Asian voters and 32.6 percent Hispanic.
Until recently, Kim was leading Cisneros, thanks in large part to an ugly ad attack and campaign mailers from Speaker Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund in which a Democratic woman claimed Cisneros sexually harassed her. Cisneros fought back and eventually met with the accuser, Melissa Fazli, who recanted her accusation. “I misunderstood the conversations that I had with Gil Cisneros at the Democratic convention and after. I don’t believe that Gil sexually harassed me,” Fazli said in a statement, the OC Weekly reported Oct. 3.
She also complained that the Republican PAC had used her image and name “without her permission” and accused them of “weaponizing my story for their own political gain. I denounce their ads,” she said. “I believe Mr. Cisneros has a good heart and is truly sorry for the handling of my accusations.”
The Congressional Leadership Fund was forced to pull the ads. Cisneros put out an ad to correct the record and scold Kim for cowardice in failing to “denounce the blatantly false ads while they were airing.”
“Kim can try to wipe her hands of these attacks, but her refusal to call out her dark money allies speaks to her real character,” Jordan said in a press release. “Ultimately, it’s not surprising that Kim continues to demonstrate a complete lack of political courage considering she gladly and willingly has thrown her support behind President Trump.” The Kim campaign did not comment to OC Weekly.