Harris is a tireless fighter for SF values

  • by James Patterson
  • Tuesday June 25, 2013
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In addition to being the "best-looking attorney general ..." in America, according to President Barack Obama, California Attorney General Kamala Harris might just be the "hardest working attorney general in America," according to a longtime friend and LGBT community activist.

Obama took much criticism when he made those comments about Harris at an April fundraiser in the Bay Area, and he quickly phoned her to apologize, according to media reports. For her part, Harris accepted the president's apology. Her spokesman Gil Duran told reporters afterwards that Harris and the president have been friends for many years.

Harris, a straight ally, is one of the community grand marshals in Sunday's LGBT Pride parade.

Out lesbian Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan, who has known Harris for more than a decade, talked of her dedication to social justice.

"She is a tireless fighter for all the issues San Francisco holds dear," Prozan said in an email.

Originally from Oakland, Harris gained an appreciation for civil rights as a child. A graduate of Westmount High School, Harris graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1986. She returned to the Bay Area to graduate from UC Hastings College of the Law.

As the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian to serve as the state's top law enforcement officer, Harris, 48, served seven years as district attorney for the City and County of San Francisco. She left the position in January 2011 when she was elected attorney general.

Harris might also be "the most LGBT-friendly attorney general in America," according to Prozan, 40. "Her unwavering commitment to LGBT equality and justice is unparalleled."

Harris declined to be interviewed. In an email sent through her press secretary, Harris talked about what "empowerment," one of this year's Pride themes, means to the community.

"Empowerment is having the courage and the ability to pursue what is rightfully yours and refusing to stop until you get it," Harris said. "For decades, the LGBT community has fought for equal treatment under law and the right to basic human dignity. From Stonewall to the Supreme Court, this march for justice and civil rights has been long and difficult �" but I believe we are on the cusp of a breakthrough."

Harris has been working on several issues, including ensuring that California's medical marijuana dispensaries operate within state guidelines and free from hostile federal intervention, marriage equality, human trafficking, and making law enforcement more efficient with technology.

Harris said that she supports California's medical marijuana law. Federal authorities, however, have taken a dim view in the last two years as many dispensaries around the state, including those in the Bay Area, have been forced to close.

"I strongly support medical marijuana because I personally know many people who have benefited from it when they were ill," Harris said. "My office is providing technical assistance to the legislature as it works to clarify California law."

Harris has also taken on consumer issues. During the foreclosure crisis, Harris went to work for California homeowners and secured a judgment of $20 billion from the nation's banks as part of the national mortgage settlement.

In her inaugural address, Harris pledged to "seek innovative new approaches in tackling the state's toughest problems." She's also using social media to keep the public informed on legal, social, and economic issues.

On Harvey Milk Day last month, Harris tweeted, "Hope will never be silent." On her Facebook page, she shared a link to Equality California.

In a June 14 tweet, Harris, who had 18,244 Twitter followers at press time, said, "Digital piracy is a serious crime that harms one of California's most important economic engines."

In a rousing February speech to the California Democratic Convention in San Diego, Harris said, "I'll tell you what's too big to fail: I say it's our middle class that is too big to fail. I say it's the California dream that is too big to fail." Later she added, "Marriage equality is too big to fail." (The full speech is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7dohvbuVpQ)

Harris is the author of the 2009 book Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer.

Her musical tastes include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Santana, Aretha Franklin, and the Beatles, her Facebook page noted. She also enjoys shopping at farmers markets.

Harris, who will be riding in Sunday's parade, draws inspiration from her mother and recalled her advice, which she shares on Facebook.

"You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last."