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Rex Richardson, Suzie Price ignore Long Beach’s LGBTQ residents

Rex Richardson Suzie Price

Long Beach has a reputation for being an LGBTQ-friendly city, but why do Suzie Price and Rex Richardson, the two mayoral candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, treat LGBTQ residents like they are invisible? Photos: Provided

Commentary

Long Beach has a reputation for being an LGBTQ-friendly city, but why do Suzie Price and Rex Richardson, the two mayoral candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, treat LGBTQ residents like they are invisible?

During their eight years on the city council, Suize Price and Rex Richardson have had a pattern of ignoring LGBTQ people and issues important to the community.

Both of them were elected to the council in 2014 and reelected in 2018.

As they campaign to be mayor, neither Price nor Richardson have included the LGBTQ community in their platforms or even mentioned LGBTQ residents on their campaign websites. 

Rex Richardson, Suzie Price

Oh sure, Price and Richardson are more than happy to show up at photo opportunities, such as the recent induction of LGBTQ community members on Equality Plaza at Harvey Milk Promenade Park, or wave on a float in the Long Beach Pride Parade to brag that they are “allies” of the LGBTQ community.

But really, what leadership, vision, and political courage have they shown LGBTQ residents during their time on the council?

In reality, Price and Richardson have a track record of failed leadership, a lack of vision, and a lack of political courage.

Here are a few examples of how Price and Richardson have ignored and continue to treat LGBTQ residents like they are invisible.

  1. During their eight years on the council, neither Price nor Richardson have introduced an LGBTQ-specific ordinance.
  2. In 2016, a judge at the Long Beach courthouse dismissed a lewd conduct case against a gay man who was arrested during a police department decoy sting operation. In his ruling, Judge Halim Dhanidian said the police department targeted gay men and discriminated against them in these schemes. Also, until 2016, the city and police had a dark history dating to 1914 of targeting gay men for false arrests and a judge in Long Beach had never thrown out one of these problematic cases during a preliminary hearing. Considering the historic nature of the case and the victory for the gay community, one might expect either Price or Richardson, during a council meeting, to voice their support for the legal victory and hold the police department, including former Police Chief Robert Luna, and City Prosecutor Doug Haubert accountable, asking these officials why they engaged in such repulsive activities. What did Price and Richardson do? They did nothing. They acted like the legal victory and the discrimination never happened. 
  3. Long Beach has some of the highest HIV infection rates of gay men in Los Angeles County and the state, according to data from the city’s Department of Health and Human Services. This issue isn’t new. These numbers have consistently remained high during Price and Richardson’s eight years on the council. The health department publishes a report annually on the data. This information is not a secret. Have either Price or Richardson ever talked, at council meetings, about investing city dollars into health initiatives or programs to address, educate, or prevent HIV in the gay community? They have not. Price and Richardson treat HIV like it doesn’t exist.
  4. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTQ advocates across California and the nation were pleading with health agencies collect sexual orientation and gender identity data, also known by the acronym SOGI. This vital information would have helped the department track how the LGBTQ community was impacted by COVID-19 in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Long Beach is unique in the county and the state as a city with its own health department; however, the health department failed to collect the SOGI data. The daily coronavirus reports that were released publicly by the health department did include five racial and ethnic categories: Asian, Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, and white. At no point during any council meetings have Price or Richardson asked health officials why the LGBTQ community was absent from the data reports. To this day, Long Beach does not know how the LGBTQ+ community was impacted by COVID-19.
  5. The city has a large LGBTQ population and several health issues disproportionately impact the community, but the city’s health department doesn’t have any specific LGBTQ programs. During an April 2021 council meeting, Kelly Colopy, director of the health department, presented the agency’s 2021-2026 strategic plan, which included zero initiatives for the LGBTQ community. It was the perfect opportunity for either Price or Richardson to speak up and seek reforms and discuss investing city money in LGBTQ health initiatives. But, neither Price nor Richardson asked any questions or said anything. The plan was passed without any debate.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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