Kamala Harris outlines LGBT rights plans, gets confused about trans women

Kamala Harris waves a rainbow flag while participating in the San Francisco Pride parade in San Francisco, California on Sunday, June, 26 2016

Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris has outlined her commitment to LGBT+ rights and says if elected, she would pass the Equality Act on her first day.

Speaking to Don Lemon at a town hall debate hosted by CNN on Monday night (April 22), the attorney, 54, laid out her history in supporting queer and trans people using law.

“As Attorney General, [LGBT+ rights] was one of the pivotal issues,” Harris said. “Prop 8 went to the United States Supreme Court, we won, and wedding bells rang across the country.”

Harris, who has previously served as District Attorney for San Francisco, said she went above and beyond to educate other prosecutors about LGBT+ cases.

“Around the Matthew Shepard era,” she explained, “I brought DAs [District Attorneys] from around the country to San Francisco where I hosted training for prosecutors around the country, on how to defeat the ‘gay panic defence.'”

Kamala Harris speaks about LGBT rights at CNN town hall.

Kamala Harris speaks about LGBT rights at CNN town hall. (Credit: CNN)

Confusion over trans men and women

Despite her show of support for the LGBT+ community, Harris has been criticised for her apparent confusion between trans men and trans women.

Harris, speaking about her ‘gay panic defence’ theory, said: “You’ll remember the tragic cases involving transgender men who were killed.” Some viewers argued due to the nature of the topic, she was speaking about trans women.

“There was this defence that was happening in court, where the murderer was calling it the gay panic defence, ‘Oh I panicked because I didn’t know he was gay, and therefore I should not be convicted of murder,'” she said.

One person wrote on Twitter: “I’m not sure Kamala knows the difference between trans women,” while another wrote: “why did you misgender trans women during tonight’s town hall? This is not something a President should be making mistakes on.”

A long commitment to LGBT+ rights

Harris also addressed the Trump administration’s ban on trans people in the military. 

“We have a president who is basically putting in place a process for discharging transgender men and women who have made a commitment to our country,” the attorney said.

The 2020 presidential candidate also commented on how long she’s been an ally of the LGBT+ community.

“Back in 2004 when the chatter among a bunch of Democrats was about civil unions, I was marrying same-sex couples at San Francisco city hall,” she said.

The CNN town hall event also saw Harris speak about the sex work industry, which she said needs to be “decriminalised,” in order to protect vulnerable women.