MODESTO, Calif. — Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, sent a letter on Tuesday to Modesto City Councilmember Mani Grewal, a Democratic candidate for State Senate District 5, demanding that Grewal take down an anti-LGBTQ ad featuring Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse. The ad is a thinly veiled attack against bipartisan legislation sponsored by Equality California and law enforcement officials to reform the state’s broken and unfair sex offender registry, which has long targeted LGBTQ people who pose no threat to their communities. Through the ad, Grewal hoped to smear his openly LGBTQ Democratic opponent in the Senate District 5 race.
“Let me be clear: anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from you or any other candidate is unacceptable and antithetical to our California values — no matter how thinly veiled the attacks are,” writes Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur in the letter to Grewal. “And we take particular exception to a candidate claiming to be ‘pro-equality,’ then using anti-LGBTQ attacks in a campaign against an openly LGBTQ candidate. On behalf of Equality California, I ask that you and your consultant Richie Ross stop attacking LGBTQ civil rights legislation and take down these offensive ads immediately.”
In the ad, Dirkse says that “adults who molest our children are criminals, and they must register as sex offenders,” a seemingly innocuous statement. But Grewal has previously stated his intention to use SB 384 (Wiener – 2017) — which provided relief to LGBTQ people who had previously been required to register as sex offenders for life under laws that unfairly targeted and entrapped gay men — and SB 145 (Wiener – 2019) — which provides relief to LGBTQ young people who are required to register as sex offenders for engaging in voluntary sexual activity for which their non-LGBTQ peers are not required to register — to attack his openly LGBTQ opponent on the campaign trail. Both bills were co-sponsored by Equality California and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and supported by a bipartisan coalition of law enforcement, civil rights and rape crisis advocates. Grewal’s disingenuous ad is nothing more than a desperate, sleazy attempt to appeal to anti-LGBTQ bias and distract voters from critical issues like healthcare affordability, education and equal pay for women.
“California voters are looking for leaders who will unite us in support of our shared values of freedom and equality, not those who would seek to divide our communities based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race or religion,” continues the letter. “There is certainly far too much hate and division coming out of the White House — we don’t need it here in California. In light of your actions, we will be asking every pro-equality elected official who has endorsed you to reconsider their support of your campaign, and we will consider seeking a formal censure by the California Democratic Party if these anti-LGBTQ attacks continue.”
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org