Guest Opinion: SF DA pledges support for LGBTQ community

  • by Brooke Jenkins
  • Wednesday June 14, 2023
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San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, third from right, enjoyed a Castro Art Mart event. Photo: Courtesy SFDA's office
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, third from right, enjoyed a Castro Art Mart event. Photo: Courtesy SFDA's office

I am looking forward to marching in San Francisco's 53rd annual Pride parade this year, alongside members of the San Francisco District Attorney's office, other elected officials, community members, family, friends, and allies. This will be my first year participating as an elected official, and I feel especially proud to do so at this time when the community and the progress we have made is under renewed assault by right-wing forces, seeking to divide and tear us apart, rather than to bring us closer together.

As the district attorney for a city that is a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community, I will stand with the community, as I always have, and seek to ensure that San Francisco continues to lead and set the standard for other cities across the country in providing safety and justice for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride has always been about demanding and creating safe, welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ people while recognizing and celebrating the deep impact that this community has on San Francisco.

The tragic death of Banko Brown impacted the community and was emblematic of the systemic failures facing underserved communities, especially the trans community. My heart was broken for Brown's family and friends at the tragic loss of life, and I am committed to working with the community to address and advance solutions for issues that disproportionately affect young people of color and the trans community.

As hate crimes and policies attacking LGBTQ+ people and communities for just being who they are persist and spread across the country, I view it as my duty to be a tireless advocate in the fight for justice, fairness, and equity. Actions always speak louder than words. Under my leadership, the LGBTQ+ community and all of San Francisco should know that cases brought forward will meet the highest ethical standards and cases will be tried in good faith, vigorously, to protect public safety, support victims of crime and ensure that there is accountability and consequences for criminal behavior.

I understand that representation matters and it is a priority for me that my administration reflects what San Francisco is and looks like. Safety and justice is strengthened when we have representation of all of our diverse communities. That's why I elevated leaders from the LGBTQ+ community to my management team to help drive accountability and justice.

Last week, my office filed hate crime charges, in addition to assault with a deadly weapon charges, against Mohammed Abdullah in connection to a violent attack near 18th and Church streets. Abdullah allegedly attacked two gay men with a glass object while making homophobic and disparaging remarks towards LGBTQ+ people. If convicted on all counts and all allegations are found true, Abdullah faces more than 10 years in prison for his crimes. Hate crimes are unacceptable and will not be tolerated; this case is a reminder that hate rears its ugly head even here in San Francisco and we must do all we can to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure there are consequences.

As a former hate crimes prosecutor in our office, I understand the profound effect these crimes have both on the victims and the larger community. These crimes strike fear into the hearts of marginalized community members while sowing division and discord. We must remain vigilant and ensure there is zero tolerance for hate in our community. While serving as the hate crimes prosecutor for the office, I worked with many hate crime victims directly as I fought for justice for them in the courtroom. One case that I am especially proud of prosecuting was that of People v. LaVonndre Harper. Harper was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and a hate crime allegation for violently slashing the face of a Black trans woman in 2018. Although nothing can undo the pain and suffering the victim endured at the hands of Harper, he is still in prison for his crimes.

To better serve LGBTQ+ victims of crime my office will continue partnering with Communities United Against Violence. CUAV has been a trusted partner for well over a decade and has just been awarded a three-year, $420,000 grant to provide trauma-informed services to victims and witnesses of crime with the goal to help victims of crime mitigate the trauma, navigate the criminal justice system, and rebuild their lives. CUAV provides peer advocacy counseling, crisis response support, healing justice activities, self-defense, and peer support groups to queer and trans-identified victims of violent crimes in San Francisco. CUAV has been a committed partner with SFDA Victim Service Division to ensure the queer and trans-identified community has access to their Marsy's Rights, a state law that provides victims with enumerated rights like being treated with respect. In the spirit of collaboration, SFDA VSD offers education and support navigating the legal system, completion of state Victim Compensation Board applications when applicable, and emergency resources and referrals.

Since taking office I have intentionally worked to get to know the LGBTQ community's needs directly. I have visited the Castro numerous times alongside gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, met with the Castro Merchants Association, and been actively working to address the public safety concerns of Castro neighbors and the small business community — such as property crime, public drug use, graffiti and other quality of life crimes we cannot ignore.

I have also had the honor and privilege of participating in fun community building events, judging multiple contests sponsored by the Castro Merchants Association like the Halloween costume and sexy elf contests, and enjoyed community events, like the Castro Art Mart.

I have also walked the Transgender District with members of the transgender community and learned about the history and current challenges that the trans community faces so that I can be a stronger ally and advocate for them. I have also stood proudly on the steps of City Hall with federal, state, and local leadership in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, and attended Equality California events to offer my support and voice for its critical advocacy work.

With the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ+ community under attack, I commit to the LGBTQ+ community to remain vigilant and a steadfast ally at all times. Let us all use this month of Pride as a time to keep fighting for the rights and protections that all people deserve.

Brooke Jenkins, a straight ally, is the San Francisco district attorney.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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