By Ann Rostow
I was cruising through the online news this morning, looking for any sign that Schwarzenegger might possibly sign the marriage equality bill that landed on his desk last Friday. Unfortunately, I didnâ€™t discover any earth shattering developments, not even a rumor that the governor could be rethinking his expected veto. But I did read a great article by Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub, published as it happens in the San Jose Mercury News.
Speaking to the audience at a state GOP convention near Palm Springs, Schwarzenegger reportedly gave the crowd a tough lecture on the state of the Party, arguing that Californiaâ€™s Republicans have crowded themselves into a narrow, irrelevant, and unelectable space on the far right of the stateâ€™s political spectrum.
â€śThe goal of any political party is to win elections, to become a majority and to advance its ideals,â€ť Arnold told the group. â€śHow do we succeed at that? By including, not excluding. By being open to new ideas, not rejecting them out of hand. By expanding into the center, not falling back upon ourselves into a smaller and smaller corner.â€ť
According to Weintraub, the Republican Party in California has lost 370,000 voters in the last two years and now represents 34 percent of the electorate. My how the mighty have fallen!
The Schwarzenegger piece stands in contrast to the Bay Times cover story by newshound Rex Wockner, â€śSan Diego Unveils Statue of Former Gov., Gays Protest,â€ť which describes a clash between progressive activists and a bunch of people in San Diego who were trying to erect a privately funded statue in honor of ex-Gov Pete Wilson late last month.
According to Wockner, the activists included GLBTs and Latinos, who produced an â€śhour-long nonstop cacophonyâ€ť that completely drowned out the ceremony. Wockner reviewed Wilsonâ€™s infuriating veto of the 1991 gay rights bill, as well as his suicidal enthusiasm for an unconstitutional anti-immigration proposition in 1994. Many analysts believe the race baiting in that particular election led to a sustained Latino defection from the Republican Party and the beginning of the end of the stateâ€™s GOP majority in the state.
Over a decade down the road, itâ€™s noteworthy that our fury towards Wilson has yet to subside, and the GOP decline has (perhaps) yet to hit bottom in the Golden State. As for Schwarzenegger, here in my home state of Texas, he would be considered a liberal Democrat.
No, he probably wonâ€™t sign the marriage bill, although activists are pushing hard. But he has signed the vast majority of gay rights bills he has faced, including the massive expansion of the domestic partner registry a couple of years ago. Also, as I mentioned previously, the governorâ€™s cursory five-page response to the state supreme courtâ€™s request for additional briefing in its marriage equality case this summer looked and sounded like a half-baked effort. Likewise, the Attorney Generalâ€™s perfunctory reply also could have been written by a law student in a hurry, making one wonder if these state officials are secretly rooting for our side. (Those in the know reject this interpretation.)
Last time the marriage bill passed the legislature, Arnold said in his veto message that the definition of marriage can only be changed through a ruling by the high court or another voter referendum. He will likely repeat this debatable position at some point before his mid-October deadline.
But, as he well knows, the whole question will become moot next year when the California Supreme Court finally weighs in on the definition of marriage. And regardless of whether the bill is vetoed, the Court cannot fail to take notice of the fact that the state legislature has twice taken a stand in favor of full equality.
The state of California, in turn, has declined to advance the usual homophobic legal arguments against same-sex couples, and has insisted instead that the word â€śmarriageâ€ť itself is a semantic technicality that can constitutionally be used to divide gay and straight couples in an innocuous gesture to tradition. Itâ€™s a thin reed, and one not likely to survive the coming showdown. (Cue: wood knocking.)
Fred, We Hardly Know You
In related news, Fred Thompson has espoused an odd position as far as same-sex marriage is concerned, coming out in favor of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would make sure states did not have to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere under â€śsome off the wall court decision.â€ť According to an article in the LA Times, Thompson also favors a separate federal amendment that would prevent state courts from ruling on same-sex marriage in the first place, leaving the entire question to the state legislatures.
â€śWhat weâ€™re seeing here is a totally judiciary created problem,â€ť he told a Sioux City audience. â€śYou know how many states have affirmatively approved gay marriage? State legislatures? Zero.â€ť
Fred? Have you been reading the news lately?
The convoluted amendment plan doesnâ€™t go quite as far as the federal marriage amendment we know and love. That twice-defeated language would simply define marriage forever as the union of a man and a woman under the nationâ€™s constitution, barring any state from opening the doors to marriage for gay couples under any circumstances. As such, Thomson is apparently getting a little flack from arch- conservatives who think heâ€™s pulling his punches. Nonetheless, he sounds pretty conservative to me, clueless idiot. Â
And here are a couple of items just to remind ourselves of why weâ€™re fighting for this damned institution in the first place.
I just stumbled upon the story of a bi-national couple, Tim Coco, and Genesio Oliveira. Coco runs an ad agency in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and met Oliveira six years ago when Oliveira was vacationing in Boston from his hometown in Brazil.
The men fell in love, and in 2005 they got married under the new Massachusetts law. They lived in a Boston suburb with their dog, Q-Tip, until a couple of months ago, when Oliveira was drummed out of the United States and sent back to Brazil. There, his visa was cancelled and he will likely not be receiving another one, since immigration authorities do not grant visas to individuals they suspect might want to live in the U.S.
Under Brazilian law, same-sex partners can sponsor their loved ones into the country, so in theory, Tim could move to Sao Paulo, or wherever. That is, if Tim wants to learn Portuguese and start an ad agency in Brazil. As for Q-Tip, Iâ€™m not sure about his status.
Meanwhile, financial manager Joan Procito was obliged to leave her job in Pennsylvania and move to Florida to follow her partner of eight years and their disabled son, who was entering college. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, when a married employee is forced to quit a job in order to relocate with his or her spouse, that individual gets unemployment benefits under the aptly named â€śfollow the spouseâ€ť doctrine.
Apparently, thereâ€™s no such thing as a â€śfollow the partnerâ€ť doctrine, because Procito was shut out of the system and denied the benefit. She has now asked a court to rule that she had a compelling reason to leave her job, and should be qualified for unemployment under state law. A lawyer for the state, Gerard Mackarevich, told the three-judge Commonwealth Court panel that â€śit would be madnessâ€ť for the unemployment board to side with Procito.
Madness! I tell you. It would be madness!
â€śHow can the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review pick and choose between people to decide whether they are sufficiently intermingled to qualify as legally married?â€ť Mackarevich demanded.
Well, I think living together for eight years as a same-sex couple with shared finances and a son might qualify as â€śsufficiently intermingled.â€ť And I think even the Board of Review might be able to figure that out.
Weil Named COO of Gay Rights Brigade
Moving on, two men who graduated from American University in Washington D.C. are suing their alma mater after a prankster submitted a faux class notes update. The New York men, both heterosexuals in their late 20s, were shocked to read that they were life partners who had gotten married in Boston on June 10, 2006. The newsletter said that one of the men, Ross Weil, was also named â€śchief operating officer of the Gay Rights Brigade.â€ť
The joke was not funny to Weil and his fellow alum, Brett Royce, who are suing American for defamation, claiming the university was negligent in not checking the submission and demanding $1.5 million. Their lawyer, Michael Kaufman, adds that the suit has â€śnothing to do with homophobia,â€ť although itâ€™s not clear, in that case, just why the incident would be worth a seven-figure settlement.
And finally, I read in the Focus on the Family newsletter that MTV is planning a show called â€śA Shot At Love With Tila Tequila.â€ť The reality show pits 16 heterosexual men against 16 lesbians as the two groups vie for a chance to date Ms. Tequila herself.
Focus on the Family is not amused.
â€śMen and women are made in the image of God, and our masculinity and femininity reflect something of His wonder and glory,â€ť said â€śgender issues analystâ€ť Jeff Johnston. â€śSo itâ€™s no wonder the enemy attacks this area and works to create confusion, brokenness and lust. Itâ€™s sad that MTV is cooperating so readily with our adversary,â€ť he continued incoherently. â€śEspecially since they just learned that what makes young men and women happy is time with their families and with God, not sexual brokenness and confusion.â€ť
Tila, I gather, is a self-made MySpace singing star, with a vast coterie of youthful admirers. Includingâ€¦ Satan?