President Obama is in a world of trouble today after making comments at a fundraiser about California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ looks. Obama called Harris the “best looking attorney general by far”, inciting widespread anger over another talented woman once again being reduced to her sex appeal. But Harris is a politician to watch – not because of her looks, but because of her political track record. Here are three issues that she’s taken especially strong stances on during her career.
1. Support of Gay Marriage. Harris was in the news a lot last week when California’s Proposition 8, which bans same sex marriage, was argued before the Supreme Court. The case made to the Supreme Court largely because, as attorney general, Harris refused to defend the ban. “As the daughter of parents who were active in the Civil Rights Movement, I refuse to stand in the doorway of the wedding chapel block same sex couples’ ability to marry,” Harris said on the Rachel Maddow Show. Later, when Harris addressed whether straight couples would be impacted by same sex marriage, Harris went to work: “On the issue of standing we make the very obvious point that if you have nothing at stake in the outcome of this, you need to sit down.”
3. Approach to criminal justice. Before she was California’s Attorney General, Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco. During her tenure, she started a program called “Back on Track”, an initiative designed for non-violent juvenile offenders. In exchange for a guilty plea, young people could enroll in a year-long program go to school and maintain a job, often an internship with a local organization. At a graduation ceremony for the program participants in 2009, Harris said: “We know the power, the beauty and the potential of our young people and we know that sometimes we all make mistakes.” But after being held accountable for those mistakes, Harris told the graduates, “We as a community need to make sure we’re doing all we can to help them reach their potential.”