Political Notebook: Governor ready to support marriage bill?
by Matthew S. Bajko
The chatter began earlier this month with actor Tom Arnold, a motorcycle-riding buddy of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, telling reporters at the governor's inaugural that his friend was ready to back same-sex marriage.
John Myers with KQED's Capitol Report wrote that his "most unusual celebrity moment" at the event was running into Arnold, who said about the governor's second term: "When you're a lame duck, or whatever you call it, you can do whatever you want." When Myers asked him what he thought the governor should work on, Arnold replied, "Gay marriage. I want [it], and I know he feels the same way."
The Associated Press also spoke to Arnold at the swearing-in ceremonies and reported that he "predicted his friend would try bold things in his second term, perhaps even supporting gay marriage." The story quotes Arnold as saying, "He's going to do a lot of things that are like that and better."
Log Cabin California Director James Vaughn , recently returned from a Hawaii vacation, told the Bay Area Reporter Monday, January 22 that he had not heard of Arnold's comments but that they mirror what he has been hearing from sources inside Schwarzenegger's administration.
"We are being told the governor looks favorably on [the gay marriage bill] in general. He just wants his concerns addressed," said Vaughn, who declined to reveal whom he had spoken to on the governor's staff.Â
But Vaughn did write in his "Director's Note" posted on the gay Republican group's Web site that during an inaugural party lesbian Schwarzenegger "Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy and I spoke briefly about the marriage bill and we'll get together to talk about how Log Cabin can help."
A spokeswoman for the governor did not respond to a request for comment. If indeed true, it would be a reversal of fortune for the gay marriage bill, which the governor vetoed in 2005.
Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) reintroduced his bill, AB43, in December for the third time. The bill would reverse a change in marriage licenses instituted by the legislature and then-Governor Jerry Brown in the 1970s â€“ it made marriage specifically between a man and a woman â€“ and return the license language to being gender neutral.
Leno said this week he has enough votes to return his bill to the governor, so his lobbying this year is focused not on his legislative colleagues but Schwarzenegger. Vaughn has spoken to Leno about how to tweak the legislation to address the governor's concerns but deferred to Leno on what changes are being discussed.
"It remains to be seen. We haven't had those meetings yet," Leno said. "We are working with the governor and his staff to find a way to get a signature."
In his 2005 veto message, Schwarzenegger said he rejected the bill due to passage of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 22 in 2000. Despite the fact the initiative only dealt with marriages performed outside the state, Schwarzenegger said it was either up to the voters or the courts to decide whether California's same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
"Primarily, the people have voted on this once. Because the governor came to office by the initiative process, if you will, he defers very much to that," said Vaughn, referring to the recall election in 2003 that brought Schwarzenegger to the Statehouse. "Even his defeat in the initiative process [when voters in 2005 rejected several Schwarzenegger-backed propositions] makes him all the more responsive to it. His views are the people have spoken and he needs to feel people have a chance to weigh in on this."
One argument being made to meet that concern, said Vaughn, is if Schwarzenegger does sign the bill into law, it is almost certain anti-gay groups will put another proposition on the ballot in 2008 to overturn the measure, thus giving voters the final say on the issue.
Another possibility, said Vaughn, is that the state Supreme Court will hear the five consolidated cases dealing with gay marriage in time to release its decision before the end of the legislative session in the fall. In 2005 a lower court declared the state's anti-gay marriage laws unconstitutional but a Court of Appeal panel overturned the decision last year. If the Supreme Court's ruling is favorable, it could give the governor cover to sign the bill.
Vaughn said, "That would be some of the speculation that is out there."
Yee given powerful post
One of those ensuring Leno's bill is passed will be state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). Last week Yee beca
"I kept calling the vote. Republicans wanted me to shut it down, but I kept hanging on," recalled Yee. "I believe I will be able to cobble the votes to get that bill passed. At the end of the day we will be successful."
One of the reasons state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) gave him the leadership post, said Yee, is he's "one of those individuals that don't get quoted a whole lot."
"It is a tremendous honor. I will be part of the operation to either move certain bills or not," said Yee last week, adding it was too soon to discuss those bills he would oppose. "I just started. I have had two days of this power."
Bills he plans to introduce this year will tackle pedestrian safety, roadway congestion, and counseling for students, especially those who are LGBT.Â
Yee demurred when asked about SB49, the bill introduced by state Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) in an attempt to keep the San Francisco 49ers from moving to Santa Clara. He said the less discussion of the item in the press, the better.
"I don't want people to harden their position either way. I think I've got constituents on both sides," he said. "Half are from San Francisco and those individuals clearly want them to stay in San Francisco. I have other individuals in San Mateo County who are probably divided. It runs the gamut."
While the issue is "extremely divisive" he added that, "I don't think it needs to tear the fabric of the Bay Area up at all. There's got to be a solution that will work for all."
As for the probability of Leno running against Migden, Yee said he had yet to speak to his former Assembly colleague.
"I am hoping Senator Migden and Mr. Leno can work out their differences and it doesn't split the San Francisco community."
New Milk Club president
The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club elected Brian Basinger as its new president this week. Basinger, the founder and leader of the AIDS Housing Alliance, wants to improve the Milk Club's media relations and increase its fundraising, He plans to hire a part-time administrative coordinator and wants to explore finding a permanent home to house the club's offices.
Basinger co-founded the Freedom to Marry Task Force of Northern California, which led to a position as the public information officer for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund during the Hawaii gay marriage trial in the 1990s. He later worked in marketing and business development for PlanetOut Inc.
Others elected Tuesday, January 23 include former school board candidate Kim Knox as vice president, political; Tim Durning as treasurer; and Rick Hauptman as recorder.
The club voted to reconfigure its two vice president internal positions so one person is focused internally and the other externally. At its next meeting the club is expected to elect Paul Mooney as vice president, external and Kelly Dugan as vice president, internal.
The club plans to form a labor caucus, and Naomi Nakamura , elected this week to the executive board, organizing position, is expected to become its chair. In addition, former BART board candidate Emily Drennen, who recently left the Green Party and became a Democrat, is expected to be elected co-chair the club's political action committee.
Equality California spokeswoman Dannie Tillman is leaving the state's largest LGBT advocacy group to become director of marketing and communications at the International Museum of Women in San Francisco. Tillman's final day with EQCA is tomorrow (Friday, January 26) and she will be relocating to the city from Los Angeles. Currently an online-only institution, its backers want to build a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot museum in San Francisco. An earlier project to build on a city pier along the waterfront has so far failed to get off the drawing board.