Rosemary Lehmberg, an out lesbian, will be the next Travis County district attorney after winning the Democratic runoff April 8. There are no Republicans in the race. A 31-year veteran of the D.A.’s office, Lehmberg has served as first assistant district attorney for a decade.
1 Have you always been out?
Mostly. It’s been so long that I have been that I can’t remember when I wasn’t. Maybe I wasn’t in the early years of my career, but for the most part I’ve been out with my family and the community and at work. In the early days of my career, people weren’t quite as accepting. It didn’t cause me any problems, but we didn’t talk about it as much. But other than that over the years, I’ve been out, and it’s just not relevant. We’re in an office that does not tolerate discrimination in any fashion, and I haven’t experienced it honestly.
2 You’ve been called the most powerful Democrat in Texas? What do you think about that?
Well I’ve heard that, and that is almost certainly a reference to the authority of our Public Integrity Unit, which is charged with investigating and prosecuting public corruption and corruption in state government. And of course that part of our office ends up investigating individuals who are in power, because abuse usually comes with power and money. In the past, that was Democrats. And more recently, it’s been more Republicans, and no one likes to be investigated, so there’s always conflict.
3 Do lesbians make better prosecutors?
I don’t now about the lesbian part, but I think women make great prosecutors. I think particularly in cases like sexual assault and child abuse — certainly men do a good job in that area — but women seem to move to that area with ease and want to work in it. I think women provide a combination of firm and tough prosecution, plus compassion.
4 What can you do in your position to further LGBT equality?
I really don’t have an agenda. I think that I serve has an individual who demonstrates that sexual orientation is not particularly relevant, except to your personal life, and therefore a lot of the homophobia and bias is unwarranted — the fear that people have. Now, if you take something like a hate crime, I think I have a unique perspective on that. So I don’t really have an agenda as a lesbian prosecutor, but there are areas I certainly would understand a little better than others might. And I think I can be a role model.
5 Who are you backing for president?
I’m not saying. I’m still too fresh off the campaign. It’s not that I don’t have strong convictions, but I was warned over and over again as a candidate about how deeply people feel about their presidential choice, and how you can alienate voters. I will be voting for a Democrat in November. You can be sure of that.
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