Kamala Harris, if elected president, says she'll counter the violence and hatred aimed at transgender Americans with a set of initiatives help ensure the "prosperity and full equality of LGBTQ+ people.
CBS News has exclusively learned that the California senator plans to establish a chief advocate for LGBTQ+ affairs in the White House. This position would "ensure a whole of government approach and strategy" in partnership with the LGBTQIA+ community to address the specific issues the community faces. The person in this job would work across agencies to "ensure that the LGBTQ+ community has the support it needs."
According to the Harris campaign, this position would also take a leading role in ensuring LGBTQ+ people are employed throughout the government.
"When I'm president, change will start from the top. We will lift people up through inclusion and put in place policies that create opportunity and ensure representation at the highest levels of government," Harris said in a statement from her campaign.
The announcement of her plans comes as she joins several Democratic presidential candidates at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's town hall Thursday. Nine candidates will be discussing their plans to address the issues and concerns of the LGBTQ community.
During the HRC Town Hall, Harris also plans to announce her commitment to appoint LGBTQ+ people to leadership roles, including cabinet-level positions and the federal bench. These commitments are new proposals Harris is adding to her existing proposals geared to LGBTQ+ people.
During a trip to Iowa this week, Harris remarked on what she said was her over two decades of work as an ally of the LGBTQ+ movement and said it represents "one of the biggest civil rights fights of our time." Harris also called out her own party and home state California for being slow to addressing the community.
"There are a lot of myths about California — oh, it's this progressive left-coast state." Harris said during a Women for Kamala Precinct Captains Meeting in Des Moines Tuesday. "California voters in the last decade passed Proposition Eight — that prevented same sex couples from marrying."
But California was nonetheless a leader in LGBTQ+ rights, she conceded, later telling the group, "Back when many Democrats were talking about civil unions, I was performing marriages."
During her time as attorney general of California, Harris was criticized for defending the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after it sought to deny gender reassignment surgery prescribed to two transgender inmates in the California State Prison. Though Harris has said since entering the race that she takes full responsibility for her California Department of Justice office, she told reporters after entering the race that she did not personally know about the case when it happened.
"It was an office with a lot of people who would do the work on a daily basis, and do I wish that sometimes they would have personally consulted me before they wrote the things that they wrote? Yes, I do." Harris said back in January, but added "The bottom line is the buck stops with me, and I take full responsibility for what my office did. But on that issue I will tell you I vehemently disagree and in fact worked behind the scenes to ensure that the Department of Corrections would allow transitioning inmates to receive the medical attention that they required, they needed and deserved."
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