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An admission by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia that she likely used a homophobic term to refer to a gay legislative leader has prompted rebukes from her fellow Democrats.
Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) acknowledged in an interview with KQED that she had used the word “homo” to describe gay people and did not dispute an allegation that she used the term to describe former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, the state’s first openly gay speaker. She denied using other homophobic slurs.
“Have I at some point used the word 'homo'? Yeah I've used that word 'homo,'” Garcia said. “I don't know that I've used it in derogatory context.”
She said she uses “candid language” in settings “where you think you're in a safe space and you could speak your mind and be vocal.”
Garcia, who is under investigation for allegations that she inappropriately touched and made sexual advances toward two men, denied that she sexually assaulted anyone. She rejected a spate of accusations levied against her, including that she encouraged staffers to play “spin the bottle,” that she excessively consumed alcohol at work and that she made staff perform personal errands.
She said the allegations were meant to silence her work on issues including environmental justice or the #MeToo movement. Garcia has been on voluntary unpaid leave since February, when the accusations first surfaced.
Democrats condemned Garcia’s use of the slur on Tuesday.
Pérez told Politico that Garcia was attempting to “rationalize” her comments by saying she only used the term in “safe spaces.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said in a statement that he does not comment on ongoing investigations.
“That said, using homophobic language is inappropriate and indefensible,” Rendon said. “Words have consequences and can cause harm. Officials who are elected to represent everyone in their districts should know better and do better.”
"It's disappointing to hear a respected former Speaker be subjected to hurtful homophobic comments,” said Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), who chairs the Legislative LGBT Caucus. “It's upsetting but not surprising — it reflects the everyday struggles that our LGBT community faces on a daily basis. We must continue to work to educate others about the importance of eradicating all forms of homophobia — and the ignorance and bigotry behind them."
Late Tuesday, Garcia issued a statement of apology, saying she had made the remark in anger.
9 p.m.: This post was updated with the assemblywoman’s apology.