BY KAREN OCAMB | Out Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has spent a lifetime fighting bigotry, most prominently perhaps when her Dignity for All Students bill to protect LGBT youth faced a knock-down, drag-out debate in the California Assembly with anti-gay Republicans claiming it was about “special rights,” not civil rights for gays. More recently, Kuehl has advocated for youth in County jails and the foster care system.
So it wasn’t surprising that there were moments when Kuehl seemed to choke upTuesday morning talking about the massacre of 49 mostly young gay Latinos and the wounding of 53 more in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida last Sunday. After a moment of silence at the beginning of the Board of Supervisors meeting, Kuehl brought up 10 openly LGBT LA County department leaders and four out LGBT members of her staff to ask that everyone re-dedicate their efforts to end bigotry everywhere.
“I have to say, I’m kinda sick of moments of silence. This is in no way to say it was inappropriate. But I’m ready for moments of screaming and moments of rage and moments of weeping,” Kuehl said to much applause. “And moments of decision and moments of commitment. And all of the things that we talk about after each of these tragedies.
“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done in the County, in the state of California and frankly, in the country, to recognize and try to deal with our inherited hatreds. We breathe them in, as we grow up and we chose to exhale them as we get older. To learn and to grow. As [Supervisor] Hilda [Solis] said, the 50 people who were killed were mostly in their 20s, were almost all Latino or Latina—they went to dance, they went to have fun. Those 50 people didn’t know it was going to be their last dance.
“We hardly ever think about such a thing. If we did, it would keep us from going anywhere. So we go, in a free country. Because we know, as we used to say and wear on our tee shirts in the AIDS and gay movements, Silence Equals Death. So we are not silent,” Kuehl said.
The supervisor also acknowledged the openly LGBT leaders standing with her, saying she is “grateful to each of them for being out, for being proud, for saying this is who I am.” She also expressed deep gratitude for straight allies, noting that many allies stood in long lines waiting for hours to donate blood in Orlando.
“There will never be enough grief, there will never be enough words, there will never be enough that we can do,” Kuehl said in conclusion. “But I ask you to re-dedicate yourselves to making certain that this kind of prejudice, this kind of hatred, this kind of violence does not happen in our community. You can step in, you can speak up. So many of you have. I am so proud of our County and so proud of the people in County. And I thank you very much.”
Joining Kuehl were: Jeff Prang, County Assessor; Joe Kelly, Treasurer and Tax Collector for the County of Los Angeles; Mitchell Katz, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff; Ronene Anda, LA Sheriff’s Department Chief of Transit Policing Division; Skye Patrick, LA County Librarian; John A. Wagner, Senior Executive Vice President, First 5 LA; Steven Golightly, Director, Child Support Services Department; Larry Hafetz, Chief Deputy Director, County Counsel; and Steven Masterson, Classification Director for LA County.