Kamala Harris named Joe Biden’s running mate in historic vice presidential pick. Here’s what it means for LGBT+ rights

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, a staunch LGBT+ ally, has been confirmed as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate.

Joe Biden had been widely tipped to choose Kamala Harris, who becomes the first Black woman and the first Asian-American to run on a major party’s presidential ticket, despite the fact the two were briefly fierce rivals for the top Democratic nomination.

“I have the great honour to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” the Democrat tweeted Thursday (August 11).

Biden noted that as California’s attorney general, Harris had worked closely with his late son, Beau.

“I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse,” he continued.

“I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”

Harris tweeted: “Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals.

“I’m honoured to join him as our party’s nominee for vice president, and do what it takes to make him our commander-in-chief.”

The Human Rights Campaign was one of many groups to congratulate Harris, tweeting: “This fall, we have the opportunity to vote for the most historic, pro-equality ticket in history.”

Kamala Harris has proven herself a staunch LGBT+ ally over the years.

As California’s attorney general, it would have been down to Harris to defend Proposition 8, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, in court. She declined, and later officiated the first same-sex wedding after the Supreme Court ruling which struck it down.

Also while in the role she blocked a “kill the gays” initiative that called for the legal execution of queer people, and helped eliminate the gay/trans panic defence.

Harris continued her advocacy as a US senator, signing friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that trans people should be allowed to use their bathroom of choice and co-sponsoring the Equality Act.

During her bid for the presidential nomination, Harris said that she would pass the Equality Act on her first day in the White House.

She also vowed to end the epidemic of violence against trans women of colour, saying there must be “serious consequence and accountability”.

Speaking at an LGBT+ town hall in October, she referred back to her own experiences working with the trans community, and touched on the issue of intersectionality.

“When you compound race with being transgender you are doubly exposed, and if you are Latina or Latino and you are an undocumented immigrant, or you are in the system in any way.”

She stated: “There’s not a woman in her 20s who is not afraid of being raped,” explaining that the same is true for the trans community.

One note of concern on Harris’ record is her 2015 decision to argue that two prisoners should not receive state-funded gender confirmation surgery.

However in September 2019 she argued that she was merely carrying out her job at the time, acting on behalf of her client the California Department of Corrections. Behind the scenes, she said, she worked with the Department to change its policy regarding trans inmates’ surgeries.

Harris also struggled to win over Black voters during the Democratic nomination contest, many of whom raised concerns about her record as a public prosecutor.