Kamala Harris Takes 'Responsibility' for Opposing Trans Surgeries

Presidential candidate Kamala Harris says she takes "full responsibility" for opposing transgender prisoners' surgeries as California attorney general.

Kamala Harris says that she takes “full responsibility” for writing legal briefs opposing multiple incarcerated trans women’s court-ordered surgeries when she was the attorney general of California.

In a news conference hosted at Howard University — Harris’ first since announcing her intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 — Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson asked Harris how she would address concerns about seeking to deny surgery for trans prisoners. While defending her actions as a matter of obligation, Harris suggested that she privately disagreed with what her office required of her and said that she takes “full responsibility” for the legal briefs in question.

“So I was, as you are rightly pointing out, the attorney general of California for two terms and I had a host of clients that I was obligated to defend and represent and I couldn’t fire my clients, and there are unfortunately situations that occurred where my clients took positions that were contrary to my beliefs. And 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. But the bottom line is the buck stops with me, and I take full responsibility for what my office did,” said Harris.

The Blade followed up by asking Harris if she thinks that trans inmates should receive state-funded surgery in general. (Advocates argue that the denial of these procedures amounts to cruel and unusual punishment — a violation of those prisoners’ constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment.) The senator’s response was vague, barely answering the question at all.

“I believe that we are at a point where we have got to stop vilifying people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and we’ve got to understand that when we are talking about a particular transgender community, for too long they have been the subject of bias, and frankly, a lack of understanding about their circumstance and their physical needs in addition to any other needs they have, and it’s about time that we have a better understanding of that,” said Harris.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is also seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, very recently came out in full support of state-funded gender-affirming surgeries for incarcerated trans people, though it should be noted that she vocally opposed the matter while running for Senator in 2012. “I don’t think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars,” she said at the time.

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