By Hans Johnson
One year ago, Rep. Mike Garcia vowed to “go to Congress and go to bat for our community.” But after winning re-election last year by just 333 votes, the Antelope Valley Republican voted on March 3 against the federal For The People Act to safeguard the right to vote of each eligible American. He also stood in the way of Pennsylvanians and Arizonans seeing all their precious ballots count in the Presidential contest, which ended up getting certified despite Garcia’s vote and an insurrection by a violent mob that invaded the Capitol.
I was reminded of Garcia’s baseball metaphor this month after protests over restrictions on voting rights in Georgia prompted relocation of the All Star Game to Colorado. If he was out-of-step with protecting voting rights, on what else was Garcia off base in ways that could hurt Antelope Valley residents and others in L.A. County whose rights are at stake in legislation on Capitol Hill?
One area that deeply concerns me is LGBTQ rights. On Feb. 25, Garcia voted against the federal Equality Act to protect all Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law would prohibit common forms of biased mistreatment, including harassment and discrimination, in education, employment, and housing.
Not only would the law add protections for adults, but also it would help shield children from bias in schools and social service programs. Anti-LGBTQ bullying remains common and causes isolation, injury, homelessness, and worse. Having a nationwide standard to hold administrators accountable to stop this pervasive threat to vulnerable kids, instead of inconsistent policies based on geography, would be a big step forward.
But Garcia rejected the Equality Act, saying it poses “a detriment to other free citizens” and “is contrary to American ideals.” Huh? Let’s unpack that. Such abstract rhetoric seems to repeat a false talking point of extremist organizations. Some allege that safeguards against discrimination for LGBTQ people necessarily interfere with the entitlement of people in positions of authority over others to act based on their religious beliefs.
The implicit presumption in statements like Garcia’s is that people of faith harbor hostility toward LGBTQ people. It’s a whopper of an insult. That such animus, where it does exist, should be unrestrained by civil-rights laws is also a real wild pitch when it comes to public policy.
It has consequences, too. Look at the case of little Gabriel Fernandez. The eight-year-old Palmdale boy died in 2013 at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend, who brutalized the child out of contempt that he might be gay. Such intense, dehumanizing cruelty highlights why legal protections from hate and bias are still needed in our society, including
coverage for kids. Any religious exemption should be very narrowly tailored, not a free pass to justify bigotry and bias.
Another area that really concerns me is reproductive healthcare. On April 1, Garcia signed on as a sponsor of the Life at Conception Act. This far-reaching federal bill would block most forms of contraception, all but sentencing women and girls to forced fertility, and take away women’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, making efforts to end an unwanted or medically dangerous pregnancy a criminal cause of action.
Such policy-making by Rep. Mike Garcia that intrudes into the private decisions of Americans is worse than virtue-signaling to his party base. With the Supreme Court having taken a case from Mississippi that could be used to overturn Roe v. Wade, Garcia’s posturing debases the lives of real people in the Antelope Valley and others in L.A. County.
Ten years ago Planned Parenthood of L.A. opened its first clinic in Palmdale. As the AV Times reported then, the area had higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, infant mortality, and sexually transmitted diseases. It had lower levels of cancer screenings and fewer options for factual counseling about birth control methods. Before the opening of the Palmdale health center, all in need of such services, including men, had to travel 50 miles to the San Fernando Valley. Add serious inconvenience to the inhumane interference the Member of Congress would inflict.
Undercutting the right to choose and LGBTQ equality are two areas where the vague language Rep. Mike Garcia uses about freedom rings hollow. Like the sanctity of being able to cast a ballot unimpeded by red tape, suppression, or disqualification, the fate of reproductive healthcare and protection from discrimination for sexual minorities are very much in play during this Congress.
So far, Garcia is striking out.