San Diego groups call for human relations commissioner to resign for transgender remarks

Dennis Hodges in 2019 used a bullhorn at a protest against Drag Queen Story Hour at the Chula Vista Public Library.
San Diego County Human Relations commissioner Dennis Hodges abstained in November when asked to vote on letter that condemned transphobia.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Commissioner Dennis Hodges has refused to resign after abstaining from voting on a statement decrying transphobia and making disparaging comments.


Members of the San Diego County’s Human Relations Commission are calling for the resignation of one of their own after he expressed opinions against the transgender community that he said are based on his religious beliefs.

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Dennis Hodges says he has a right to remain on the 27-member panel while maintaining his religious convictions, but dozens of LGBTQ supporters have asked the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to remove him.

On its website, the Leon L. Williams San Diego County Human Relations Commission states its purpose is “to promote positive human relations, respect and the integrity of every individual regardless of gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or citizenship status.”


In November, the commission discussed and voted to sign a letter condemning transphobia and recommitted to work to end discrimination against transgender people. Hodges abstained from voting and when asked about it, made some disparaging comments.

Hodges recounted the conversation during an interview Tuesday and recalled saying that “transgenderism is an abomination in the eyes of God.”

“I didn’t come up with that word abomination; that’s the word that’s in the Bible,” Hodges said. “I even told them, ‘I love everybody on this board, but I’m not going to support what’s against the Bible.’”

He cited a Bible verse, Deuteronomy 22:5. (“A woman must not wear man’s clothing, nor is a man to put on a woman’s clothing. For all that do so are abominations to the Lord your God.”)

Hodges said he is a pastor of the Church of Yeshua Ha Mashiach, in Lemon Grove, and has been a nondenominational Christian minister since 1998.

Recently 51 LGBTQ leaders and supporters, including faith, labor, community advocates and some commissioners, wrote an editorial saying Hodges should not serve as a human rights commissioner because of his “discriminatory and hateful comments.”

The letter quotes Hodges as saying during the November meeting that he believes adamantly that “transgenders” are “sinners.”

Following the incident, Hodges also sent a letter of his own to Commission Chair Ellen Nash, reiterating his comments and saying that he “felt assaulted by the entire commission board, especially those stating that I was proclaiming hate speech.”

“My understanding of a transgender is a man dresses and behaves as a woman and vice versa,” Hodges stated in his letter to Nash.

Hodges’ letter also states that he believes those in the LGBTQ community “are making immoral and ungodly decisions.”

Commissioner Cara Dessert, CEO of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, asked for his immediate resignation during that Nov. 9 meeting. Since then, Nash and a group of seven commissioners have sent letters to the County Board of Supervisors seeking Hodges’ removal.

“I believe in Commissioner Hodges’ right to vote how he chooses, his right to free speech and freedom of religion as a member of the public, but his persistent, discriminatory and hateful comments are antithetical to the mission of the commission, and that’s why it’s disqualifying of his appointed position as a commissioner,” Dessert said in an interview Tuesday.

“On the commission, we’re called to serve this region in furtherance of human rights for all, and his comments, which are vocally and fervently against the LGBTQ community, means that he cannot serve this commission’s mission,” Dessert added.

Hodges has refused to resign.

“I should be on the round table because I have a concern for everyone,” Hodges said. “I don’t hate (transgenders), matter of fact, I love them because they are God’s creation.”

“I can work with these folks, but I’m not going to support what they’re doing in regards to their lifestyle,” he added. “Because of the platform that it’s on, I’m not going to try to change those people’s minds.”

The commission does not have the power to remove a commissioner; the “appointing or nominating authority” can remove him, according to the commission’s bylaws.

Joel Anderson, the supervisor who appointed Hodges, was unavailable for comment Tuesday, and he did not attend Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting because he was ill.

Nash says the Human Relations Commission is a microcosm of society, which gives it an opportunity to create real change by working through some of the issues raised by Hodges, other commissioners and the community, along with any other conflicts that may arise.

“The commission is comprised of voices from all over the community, all kinds of belief systems,” Nash said. “We were created to deal with controversy, to deal with issues of difference, to challenge each other’s mindsets.

“These are issues that we all are encountering, and this commission, it can be the example of how we respond to different belief systems ... The hate needs to be dealt with.”

To that end, the commission is inviting community organizations and leaders to be part of the conversation. Those who would like to be involved can email the San Diego County Office of Equity & Racial Justice at


6:11 p.m. March 3, 2022: This story has been updated to clarify punctuation in a quote.