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Scott Wiener is following in Harvey Milk’s footsteps

Gay lawmaker and senator Scott Wiener
Senator Scott Wiener (D-CA) (Photo: Supplied)

California Senator Scott Wiener is one of the state’s most high-profile gay lawmakers. A Democrat, he was elected to office in November 2016. His district covers the whole of San Francisco, along with Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.

Wiener, 52, was born in Philadelphia and raised in southern New Jersey. He received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

He moved to San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood in 1997 to work as a litigation attorney, before becoming a deputy city attorney in 2002.

Before his 2016 election, he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He covered the district previously represented by the assassinated LGBTQ icon, Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Since taking office in 2016, Wiener’s authored dozens of bills. His priorities include tackling the housing shortage in San Francisco, clean energy, and mental health.

Coming out about PrEP

Wiener’s legislation often directly impacts LGBTQ people. This includes protecting LGBTQ seniors in long-term care facilities; a law that requires prisons to house transgender incarcerated individuals according to where they’re safest; and SB 159, which allows pharmacists to provide PrEP and PEP without a physician’s prescription.

In fact, he was the first public figure in the country to openly reveal he takes PrEP, announcing he was on Truvada back in 2014 when he was a Supervisor.

Writing for HuffPost at the time, he said, “As an elected official, disclosing this personal health decision was a hard but necessary choice. After all these years, we still see enormous stigma, shame, and judgment around HIV, and around sexuality in general. That is precisely why I decided to be public about my choice: to contribute to a larger dialogue about our community’s health.”

In the face of rising legislative attacks against trans youth, earlier this year he authored SB 107. This so-called trans refuge law will shield trans kids and their families from penalties when seeking gender-affirming care.

Targeting meth and the opioid crisis

Last year, Wiener authored legislation to help tackle the state’s meth and opioid crisis, which disproportionately affects LGBTQ and Black communities. The Recovery Incentives Act (SB110) would give those struggling with drugs financial rewards if they enter substance use treatment programs and remain drug-free.

Related: California senator pushes to tackle state’s meth crisis with groundbreaking treatment

The bill passed with unanimous, bipartisan support but was vetoed by California Governor Gavin Newsom last October. Newsom called it “premature,” and announced a pilot project to evaluate its potential benefits. Wiener was “deeply disappointed” by the veto.

Senator Scott Wiener
Senator Scott Wiener (Photo: Supplied)

“So many people across California are dying from meth overdoses,” Wiener said. “And they’re dying right now. Time is of the essence. We know from more than a decade of data and experience that contingency management is highly effective in helping people stop using meth … and we don’t need pilot programs to tell us that.”

It’s a setback, but it’s an issue Wiener is not giving up.

He’s currently championing another bill that would create sites where people could legally take drugs under supervision, to minimize overdose deaths.

The concept has been enacted successfully in other countries, and Wiener believes anything that reduces death is a good thing, even if some Republican lawmakers accuse the legislation of “enabling addiction.”

Wiener points to two “safe consumption sites” operating in New York City. In just a few weeks, over 60 potential overdose-related deaths have been prevented.

“This is one way to help keep people safe and to actually help people get into treatment,” Wiener told AP last week.

We’re proud of Wiener for repeatedly showing he’s not afraid to explore bold solutions when it comes to what some regard as controversial issues, especially when the lives of LGBTQ people are at stake.

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