News (USA)

Longtime LGBTQ+ political ally Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been hospitalized

Dianne Feinstein, hospital, shingles
Dianne Feinstein Photo: CSPAN screenshot

Longtime LGBTQ+ political ally Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been hospitalized in San Francisco, California to recover from shingles, a painful rash.

“[I] expect to make a full recovery,” the 89-year-old senator said in a statement, adding, “I hope to return to the Senate later this month.”

The senator was diagnosed with the condition over the February Senate recess, she said. Since her diagnosis, she has missed a dozen Senate votes and two committee hearings, her spokesman told The San Francisco Chronicle.

Her absence, along with the recent hospitalization of Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) for depression, has weakened the Democrats’ 51-49 lead in the Senate, limiting the party’s ability to pass votes. Twice this week, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast tie-breaking votes in the upper congressional chamber to make up for Feinstein’s and Fetterman’s missing votes’, the BBC reported.

Shingles are an infection of the nerves caused by a reactivated chicken pox virus that can result in a painful, scaly rash, typically on one side of the body. The infection, which occurs more commonly in people over the age of 50, is not typically lethal.

Early treatment of shingles can help patients avoid permanent nerve pain or potentially serious infection. Treatment usually involves antiviral medicines, anti-itch lotions, and steroids. The condition usually heals completely within 2 to 4 weeks, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

Feinstein, the oldest sitting senator currently in office, announced last month that she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2024. Her announcement came amid reports of her declining mental acuity.

The senator has held her seat since 1992. Before then, she famously served as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors during the 1978 assassinations of gay board member and civil rights activist Harvey Milk and then-Mayor George Moscone. She became Moscone’s successor as mayor and, in 1990, ran an unsuccessful campaign to become California’s governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate two years later.

Earlier in her political career, Feinstein’s record on LGBTQ+ rights seemed a bit mixed.

As mayor, she vetoed city employee benefits for domestic partners. In 2004, she criticized then-mayor and now Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) of doing “too much, too fast, too soon” by ordering city officials to issue same-sex marriage licenses. However, in 1996, she was one of the few Democrats to vote against the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act. In 2017, she criticized then-President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military servicemembers.

In a statement following her announcement not to seek re-election, Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, wrote of Feinstein, “She has supported landmark federal hate crime legislation, fought for access to life-saving treatment for people living with HIV, sponsored the Equality Act, spoken out in support of LGBTQ+ service members before and after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and has stood up for our community — even before it was popular to do so and when it presented significant political risks.”

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