Los Angeles is among the 200-plus cities and counties with an LGBT employment anti-discrimination ordinance, but L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says there remain “those quiet spaces where discrimination can live all too well.”
Do you anticipate there will be any kind of backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling?
I don’t think so. This is becoming the big shrug, which is a sign of progress. What happens when marriage is moved one step closer to equality is nothing happens, and that is the point. All of the premature predictions — that Western civilization as we know it and marriages would suddenly fall apart, or that we would no longer have freedom of religion — they have been proven to be so patently false that I think people will laugh at them now. Progress has happened swiftly.
What more needs to be done at the local level?
It is very clear that we shouldn’t equate marriage equality with equality across the board. There is still a lot to be done. I am pleased to see the pace of that progress happen more quickly, that those who put discriminatory laws on the books, like they did in Indiana, are so swiftly met with corporate and middle-America backlash; that gives me a lot of hope that things can be done. But I don’t kid myself that this is going to happen overnight. There are still too many gay, lesbian and transgender youth around the country who live in fear and face sexual violence and physical violence in their homes and their communities. Bullying based on perceived sexual orientation and gender is still a huge issue in probably every school in America. Discrimination in the workplace masquerading as religious freedom continues. I think the public space will be more and more equal, but we next need to focus on the private spaces where there is a public interest — those quiet spaces where discrimination can live all too well. We have desegregation in this country. Slavery has ended. We have all these things on the books, and then we see racism alive and well in a horrific way (in Charleston, S.C.).
What is the next step for the city of Los Angeles?
I was very pleased, almost eight years ago, to hold the first transgender job fair in the only big city in America on the steps of City Hall. I recently met with a group of transgender leaders who are pushing the city to do more and better on job training, on economic opportunity, to look at health concerns, suicide prevention, social-service access. There is always another frontier. Lesbians often felt excluded in the early days of gay rights, and bisexuals often felt excluded from gay and lesbian rights. Now, there is discrimination both inside and outside the community against transgender people. So I think there is always work to be done inside the LGBT community, and always work to be done alongside the LGBT community, to reach a more equal society and a more just city here in Los Angeles as well.
Have movies and TV shows helped influence hearts and minds?
This is one area where Hollywood has not just reflected a change, but led it. When I think about “Glee” having a transgender main character so that every teenage fan grows up saying, ‘Oh yeah, of course. I’ve seen that.’ Whether it is in a story, or real life, it has opened up a space. Friends of mine are raising early teen and teenage transgender children. Folks are coming out as soon as they come of age because they know who they are. I think that everybody knows somebody who is LGBT, and that has been really wonderful, because there is a certain intimacy now that we know these Hollywood stories that have moved us.
Where do you see the Republican Party moving on this issue?
It is funny when you hear senators say, “I have never had a gay person in my family,” or people running on a platform that we need to affirm that marriage is just between a man and a woman. It almost feels like we are watching black-and-white television of another era. It represents kind of the last political death throes of the wedge issues that used to motivate people. But I think, increasingly, people who speak that way will be peripheral candidates, and won’t be able to, for instance, be elected president in the future.