Political Notebook: Governor quietly appoints gays
by Matthew S. Bajko
You won't find gay-marriage vetoer Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in any Pride parades. At some Prides you won't even see the Republican governor's Pride letter, due to his ongoing stance against signing a marriage equality bill.
But that doesn't mean the Governator hasn't made some decisions worthy of praise this Pride season. In fact, Schwarzenegger in recent months has quietly appointed gays and lesbians to state boards, commissions, and administration-level posts.
Nowhere in the releases from the governor's office will you find any mention of the fact that seven of his appointments hail from the LGBT community. But since 2005 he has selected six gay men and one lesbian for political posts, three Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent.
The picks are significant in that the positions could be launching points for future runs for political office, something Log Cabin California Director James Vaughn has made a top priority. And Vaughn expects more gay Republicans to be named to various posts this year.
"As for the commissions, there are about a dozen under consideration for various commissions. Some are further along in the process than others," wrote Vaughn in an e-mail in late May. "This is part of our campaign to develop a farm team of candidates for public office â€“ getting our members to be involved on state and local boards and commissions."
A spokeswoman for the governor said the background info for appointees focuses on their professional experience and rarely includes any family information.
"The governor appoints the most qualified people for these positions," said Gena Grebitus. "The focus is more on the reasons why they are appointed to the position."
Oddly enough, the statewide gay Republican group has been just as shy as the governor about his gay picks. The political group has yet to issue any news releases hailing Schwarzenegger for adding a lavender sheen to his administration.
The group did make mention on its blog at http://www.blogcabinca.org of two of the governor's picks back in 2005. In December of that year Schwarzenegger named Sacramento resident Dr. Tod Burnett , who had served as deputy appointments secretary for the Office of the Governor, as vice chancellor for California Community Colleges, and Carpinteria City Council member Gregory Gandrud to the Recreational Trails Committee .
But it wasn't until the West Hollywood City Council earlier this month voted to appoint gay Republican blogger Scott Schmidt, whose Internet nom de plume is BoifromTroy, to its transportation commission that the statewide political club trumpeted its growing "farm team" of openly gay or lesbian Republicans serving on public bodies throughout the state.
"We've come out in the Republican Party, and now it's time to stand out in our communities," Vaughn said in the statement, posted of course, to the group's blog.
In his blog post Vaughn also wrote that over half a dozen Log Cabin members are considering running for local elected offices in the next two years.
As for why the club hasn't been more vocal about trumpeting the governor's willingness to pick openly gay applicants, that remains unclear. Vaughn did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, nor could he be reached by phone last week.
In some cases the people selected are such familiar players in state politics and the LGBT community that perhaps any mention of their sexual orientation is not needed.
In May the governor hired Marty Keller as the new small business advocate for the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, with a yearly salary of $99,000. The Sacramento resident was one of two openly gay delegates at the 1992 Republican National Convention.
Keller, a past chairman of Log Cabin California, had served as executive director of the California Automotive Business Coalition, formerly the Automotive Repair Coalition of California, since 2002.
In April, Schwarzenegger appointed John Wagner as director of the Department of Social Services, with a yearly salary of $165,000. His first day on the job was June 2.
The former Boston resident served in the administration of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, now a Republican presidential candidate, as a commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, overseeing the state's welfare agency.
Back in March, the governor even reappointed Roberta Achtenberg, a true-blue Democrat and out lesbian, to her seat on the California State University Board of Trustees, which she has served on since 1999 and took over as chair in 2006. The former San Francisco supervisor became the first out person to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a political post when former President Bill Clinton asked her to serve as assistant secretary of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The governor, of course, has hired several prominent gay Democrats to his administration, such as his chief of staff Susan Kennedy . As for other gay Democrats whom the governor has appointed to public boards and commissions, Achtenberg said she is not aware of any.
Nonetheless, she said she was never concerned that her Democratic registration would result in her not being reappointed.
"I wasn't concerned because in his three years as governor he had appointed more Democrats to our board than he had Republicans. He had been making merit appointments, by which I mean they were made without regards to political affiliation," said Achtenberg. "It is pretty unusual."
As for his picking Log Cabin members for several posts, she said, "I think it is terrific."
The governor's other gay picks occurred in early 2005 when he appointed San Diego resident Patrick Adams to the Fair Employment and Housing Commission and Laguna Beach resident Jon M. Stordahl to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Stordahl is vice chair of the board of directors of the LGBT-focused Center Orange County.
First gay judge pick on its way?
The governor could also make history this summer by appointing the first out gay judge to a state appellate court. A vacancy is expected soon on San Francisco's 1st District Court of Appeal and crime novelist Michael Nava , an openly gay staff attorney for California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, is among those up for consideration.
According to a May 31 story in The Recorder, Sharon Majors-Lewis , Schwarzenegger's new judicial appointments secretary, told the State Bar Board of Governors that the administration welcomes gay and lesbian candidates.
"We want people from all walks of life," she is quoted as saying to the legal group.
The article reports that Justice Joanne Parrilli â€“ whom former Republican Governor Pete Wilson nominated to the appellate bench in 1995 â€“ plans to step down on July 31.
Nava, who lives in Daly City with his partner, George Herzog, an oncology nurse at the Veteran's Administration hospital in San Francisco, did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.
Six months ago Nava had been considered for another vacancy on the court but was passed over for Alameda County Superior Court Judge Henry Needham Jr., who is African American. According to the legal newspaper Nava wasn't upset at his not being picked because the appellate court did not have any black justices on it.
That had been a "serious omission," Nava told the paper, adding, "But so is the absence of a gay and lesbian judge. Maybe [Schwarzenegger] can remedy that soon."
No Pride for Tuolumne County
LGBT residents of Tuolumne County, which includes several towns in the Sierra Nevada Mountains along with Yosemite National Park, will have to celebrate June being Gay Pride Month without official recognition this year.
The county's Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday, June 12 against approving a Pride month resolution, reported the Union Democrat . Supervisor Mark Thornton, who claims he faces discrimination as a celibacy advocate, said the board shouldn't be passing sexually oriented resolutions, reported the paper.
Supervisor Paolo Maffei, who told the paper "creative" business people want to move to an area that is open and accepting to different kinds of people, fears the board's vote sends "the wrong message."
Gay Jupiter resident Jerry Cadotte , who runs AIDS agency Sierra HOPE, told the paper, "I think they missed an opportunity to provide leadership to show that Tuolumne County is an accepting community."
Carolyn Woodall, a county deputy public defender who is transgender, complained to the paper that the board says "they don't condone discrimination, but they're not willing to stand up for equality."
Pride guest stars
At San Francisco's Pride Sunday, Elizabeth Edwards , wife of Democratic presidential contender John Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and vice president nominee, will be making an appearance at the annual Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club breakfast.
Stuart Milk, nephew of the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, will make his first parade appearance as part of Supervisor Bevan Dufty's contingent.Â