Since becoming congressman elect for California’s 42nd District, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has been tweeting up a storm: trolling anti-LGBTQ Congresswoman Majorie Taylor Greene, vowing to quote RuPaul from the floor of the House of Representatives, and boasting about his love for comic books.
It’s all very entertaining.
We hope Garcia, the first LGBTQ+ immigrant elected to Congress, will show the same enthusiasm in fighting for the LGBTQ+ community. We hope he will do more for the LGBTQ+ community than tweet cute slogans and/or videos.
So far, he has been silent about specific LGBTQ+ plans and issues he will push.
While his tweets are amusing, what’s not amusing is Robert Garcia’s track record of failed leadership for the queer community while he has been mayor of Long Beach, which will end Dec. 20.
Sure, he loves pulling out the gay card and making references to being gay and drag queens, but what has Garcia actually done from a policy perspective to help the community? After all, being a public servant is about getting policies implemented, not posting amusing tweets.
Here are four times during his eight years as mayor when Robert Garcia showed a lack of leadership and a lack of political courage, and treated Long Beach’s LGBTQ+ residents like they are invisible.
- 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 Garcia, who’s never met a camera he didn’t like, to say something during a live council meeting. It was the perfect opportunity to support the legal victory, apologize to the community, 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 Garcia do? Nothing. He never even apologized for the city’s hostile and discriminatory treatment of gay men. He acted like the legal victory and the discrimination never happened. Garcia endorsed Luna for Los Angeles County Sheriff, saying he “was a great chief of police for Long Beach and he leads with integrity.”
- 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. Many of the new infections are impacting gay Latinos. This issue isn’t new. These numbers have consistently remained high during Garcia’s eight years as mayor. The health department publishes a report annually on the data. This information is not a secret. Has Garcia, at council meetings, advocated for investing city dollars into health initiatives or programs to address, educate, or prevent HIV in the gay community? He has not. Garcia doesn’t talk about HIV. He treats HIV like it doesn’t exist.
- 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 Los Angeles 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 did Garica ask health officials why the LGBTQ community was absent from the data reports or advocate for the community and ask that the data be collected. To this day, Long Beach does not know how the LGBTQ+ community was impacted by COVID-19.
- Even though the city has a large LGBTQ+ population and several health issues disproportionately impact the community, the city’s health department doesn’t have any specific programs for the LGBTQ+ community. During the April 20, 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 Garcia to speak up and seek reforms and discuss investing city money in queer health initiatives. But, Garcia didn’t ask any questions or say anything. The strategic plan was passed without any discussion.
- This summer, gay residents were frustrated at the Long Beach Health Department’s education and prevention response to the monkeypox outbreak that was disproportionately impacting them. The generic messaging, with little to no mentioning of the gay community, treated them like they were invisible. Garcia said in various press releases that “we are taking monkeypox very seriously” and “we are working with urgency to address monkeypox in our community.” But on his Twitter page in July, Garcia had created approximately 50 posts. At least 25 of them were related to his candidacy for Congress, but only two were related to monkeypox prevention.