Guest Opinion: Lee is the choice for US Senate

  • by Bevan Dufty and Carolyn Wysinger
  • Wednesday February 21, 2024
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Congressmember Barbara Lee, center, talked with supporters at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center February 17 at a get-out-the-vote effort. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Congressmember Barbara Lee, center, talked with supporters at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center February 17 at a get-out-the-vote effort. Photo: Rick Gerharter

As Bay Area LGBTQ elected officials, we are proud that both of San Francisco's LGBTQ Democratic clubs — Harvey Milk and Alice B. Toklas — have endorsed Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) for the U.S. Senate.

Lee has shown the world that she leads with a strong moral compass, not a weather vane.

As the only member of Congress who voted against giving the president unlimited war powers after 9/11 — Lee had the courage to stand alone and history has proved her right. More recently, she has called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Lee's entire life is a testament to her good fight against injustice and inequality.

Lee grew up in segregated El Paso, Texas with a father who was a veteran of two wars and a mother who broke many glass ceilings in the South.

Lee understands our struggles because she's lived them. She escaped an abusive marriage with her two sons, and for a time she lived on public assistance. Child care was unaffordable, so she had to bring her boys with her to classes at Mills College.

What's more, Lee persevered to lift her family out of poverty because she was able to move into housing, and through a Housing and Urban Development Department program she was able to purchase that house and graduate from Mills and then receive a degree in social work from UC Berkeley.

Lee knows first-hand that affordable housing is vital to help families thrive in these incredibly expensive times.

As an ally, Lee has always been in the vanguard in terms of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, the fight against HIV/AIDS, and standing up for reproductive freedom.

Lee was a leader in legislating PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, working successfully with then-President George W. Bush. PEPFAR represents the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease, HIV/AIDS.

Over 20-plus years, more than 25 million lives have been saved in Africa and other developing countries. PEPFAR has also created a health infrastructure that would not exist otherwise and this helped nations lessen mortality rates for COVID, as well. In Congress, Lee has been the strongest advocate for prevention, effective services, and treatment as Black and Latino men who have sex with men still represent the largest number of new HIV infections domestically.

In the history of our country, only two Black women have ever been elected to the U.S. Senate, Carol Mosley Braun of Illinois and Kamala Harris, the former San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general, and current vice president. Lee is uniquely qualified to be California's senator because she brings perspectives and life experience that simply aren't represented. And she is a brilliant legislator and proven bipartisan bridge builder.

Lee's mentor was the trailblazing Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm of New York, the first Black woman elected to the House of Representatives and the first to run for president. Lee has run an inclusive, positive, and empowering campaign across California.

Chisholm once said: "Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth." Lee has unquestionably dedicated her life to service, and we would be so fortunate to have her working for the people of California as our senator.

Bevan Dufty, a gay man, is president of the BART Board of Directors. Carolyn Wysinger, a lesbian, is mayor pro tem of the city of El Cerrito.

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