“Mr. Jenkins has shown the ability to grow and learn and understand the role he could serve as DA.”
By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Turahn Jenkins, a candidate for the office of Allegheny County District Attorney, told the Pittsburgh Current Thursday morning that he is “so sorry” that last summer’s interaction with members of the LGBTQ community, when he said being gay or trans was a “sin,” ever took place. And after being shown the apology, one of Jenkins’ biggest critics that day says she now plans to vote for Jenkins over incumbent Stephen Zappala.
The incident happened last July during a community meeting with members of the LGBTQ community. The incident was reported on social media by activist and union organizer, Maria Montano and also on Sue Kerr’s Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog. A few weeks ago Montano was invited to sit down with Jenkins and the two talked for more than an hour in what Montano called a “hard conversation.” Jenkins told her that he had been educating himself over the past several months about the difficulties the LGBTQ community face.
During an interview with Jenkins today (April 25), he told the Current:
“I am so sorry that this happened. I never want to be a person who causes someone else pain. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. It’s absolutely opposite of who I am as a person. Part of the reason that I decided to run for this office was that I’m tired of the devastation that this office has brought on everyone. I’ve met with dozens of the members of the LGBTQ community since this happened. A lot of it was in a private setting because they didn’t want it known publicly that they had met with me. I’m so glad they met with me because I wouldn’t have the knowledge that I have now. Like with Maria, I can’t stress how glad I am that she decided to come in and meet with me despite everything that happened.”
“As a defense attorney, I’ve represented thousands of people on everything from a criminal citation all the way up to murder. Many of those people have been members of the LGBTQ community. BUt while I worked with members of the LGBTQ community as a defense attorney, I wasn’t as well versed in the issues they face coming through the criminal justice system as I should have been and that’s unfortunate. When I went to that meeting, they started asking me about my faith and I didn’t have a full appreciation of how my comments would make them angry and disgusted. I knew I needed to become educated and learn more about the LGBTQ community and what they have gone through and I took steps to do just that. I don’t want anyone to feel that they would be left behind or denied justice by my administration because of who they love or who they are or where they come from. That’s not what I stand for. “
“This journey for me has been difficult because my entire life, I’ve always had compassion for people. I then go out and offended an entire community of people. I never wanted to be someone who was polarizing or someone who made people turn away at the sight of me. This has obviously been humbling for me. But it made me grow more as a person. It’s made me want to be a better person; a person who is more respectful of other people; more respectful of who they are, where they’re coming from. It’s a work in progress, you’re never completely done. I’m going to continue to learn and listen to people. I want to continue to be the best Turahn that I can be and hopefully that translate into being the type of district attorney that Allegheny County deserves.”
In addition, Jenkins said that diversity in the DA’s office is horrendous and he plans to build an DA’s office that is representative of the community it serves, including adding more minority personnel, and more members of the LGBTQ community.
When contacted, Montano told the Current that she felt Jenkins was sincere during their recent meeting and believes he worked hard to educate himself about the struggles of the LGBTQIA community, particularly with the treatment of these individuals in the criminal justice system.
“There was a lot of excitement when Turahn announced his campaign,” Montano said. “But when he said what he said at that meeting, I was heartbroken because every person in that room wanted to support him.
“I think he finally saw how damaging words like the ones he used could be. But he’s been watching, learning, reading and truly trying to understand more about our community. I told him all that was left was for him to own up to his mistakes and work to bring people together.”
Montano says she desperately wanted an alternative to incumbent DA Stephen Zappala, and that desire grew even more after Officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted in the killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose.
“Mr. Jenkins has shown the ability to grow and learn and understand the role he could serve as DA. Honestly, as long as he apologizes publicly and keeps his promise to me, I’ll probably vote for him.”
A short time later, the Current sent Montano a message containing Jenkins’ above statement.
She sent back four words: “He has my vote.”
Read more about this race and others coming up in the April 30 issue of the Pittsburgh Current.