New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a leader in the #MeToo movement, announced her intention to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Tuesday night, Jan. 15. She joins an expanding list of 2020 candidates that now include Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. But all eyes are on California Sen. Kamala Harris, especially after her precise questioning of President Trump’s Attorney General nominee William Barr that was so impressive, Trump ally Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham uttered the word “impressive” immediately after Harris surrendered her time.
Wide speculation is that Harris—whose life centers around civil rights and the struggle for equality, as she details in her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey”—will announce that she is forming an exploratory committee to run for president on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21. She has already been posited as the female version of Barack Obama, with whom she is friends. But unlike Obama who had to publicly “evolve” into acceptance of marriage equality, Harris was front-and-center in the fight against Prop 8 in California, both as a district attorney in San Francisco and as California Attorney General, refusing to defend the anti-gay marriage law just as had her predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown.
Just as Gillibrand referred to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the Colbert show, other Democratic candidates will appeal to the LGBT community. But between Prop 8 and her statewide run for Attorney General, Harris handily won over LGBT voters with the backing of such groups as Equality California.
“We were overjoyed to be the first couple married in California after the US Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8,” Kris Perry, a plaintiff with wife Sandy Stier in the federal Prop 8 case, told the Los Angeles Blade. “What delighted us even more was the solidarity and support we felt when then-Attorney General Harris ran across San Francisco City Center to join us the court clerk’s office to officiate our wedding in the presence of hundreds of supporters. We will never forget the love and kindness she showed us that day.”
“As the declaration season for Democratic Presidential candidates begins we are bound to see many qualified individuals. When we see names like Kamala Harris on the list, we remember when she was the chief law enforcement official in California, she ensured that equality for the LGBTQ+ community was a priority,” Jeff Zarrillo, Prop 8 plaintiff with husband Paul Katami, told the Los Angeles Blade.
“After winning our lawsuit, the 9th Circuit quickly lifted the stay and on that day we tried to get a marriage license in order to be the first male couple married in Los Angeles since Prop 8 was dead,” Zarrillo said. “When the registrar declined us because he hadn’t received a directive from the state, AG Harris picked up the phone and called the LA registrar and told him to give us the license. She said something powerful to him, ‘Enjoy it.’ We met with AG Harris that next weekend at San Francisco Pride and she gave us the biggest congratulatory hug and we were able to thank her in person for her unwavering support over the length of our lawsuit and for continuing to keep California at the forefront of LGBTQ+ equality.”
But not so fast, says Los Angeles-based Fred Karger, the first openly gay candidate to run for president from a major political party in 2012. Don’t discount “impressive” South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the second gay man seeking his party’s nomination.
“It looks like he will run and I very much hope that he does,” Karger told the Los Angeles Blade. “Mayor Buttigieg has a great resume, is smart and if he goes, it will send a powerful message to the LGBTQ citizens of the world. Even though he’s new to the fight, the LGBTQ Community and our leaders will likely give him a great reception.”
Karger notes that, like him, Buttigieg will be a longshot, especially with such a formidable and large field of candidates. But, Karger said, “he could break away from the pack if the entire LGBTQ community would get behind him with all of our resources and might. Then he could have a real shot. New Hampshire would be a good place for him to start and he should be in there yesterday. Iowa with its Caucus system is early impossible for a newcomer without $30 million to use for organizing, but New Hampshire might afford Pete an opportunity to finish in the money next year in the first primary in the nation and give him the national exposure that he would need. Of course if he’s able to get into the early debates, anything is possible. We’ve seen that before.”
After his historic 2012 run against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Karger has focused on exposing the Mormon Church’s business dealings using their tax-exempt status. Karger thinks the church is operating behind the scenes again, as they did during the battle over Prop 8.
“I believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) is working overtime to get its most prominent member, freshman Utah Sen. Mitt Romney in a position to challenge Donald Trump,” said Karger. “Romney’s run twice before in 2008 and 2012, and if Trump falters or doesn’t run for reelection, Romney is waiting in the wings and ready to leap into the race with the hope of being the Republican nominee again. So while all the action looks to be on the Democrat side, there could be a big Republican surprise on the horizon.”