News, Wit & Commentary for Lesbians
JIC Post:SACRAMENTO – On Tuesday evening when the California State Legislature was making history by passing the nation’s first marriage equality bill, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) waited until the 11th hour to veto the first of many gay rights bills that are expected to hit his desk this legislative session. AB 866, authored by Assembly Speaker pro Tem Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/Daly City) and sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), was designed to prevent discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals in political campaigns. “Quite frankly, I am outraged that the Governor vetoed a bill that protects gay and lesbian candidates from facing discrimination and hate during a campaign,” said Speaker pro Tem Yee. “It is unconscionable that the Governor of California would send a message that it is ok to foster campaigns that create fear and intimidation upon the LGBT community.” Specifically, the legislation would have prohibited the use of any negative appeal based on prejudice of sexual orientation or gender identity by candidates or campaign committees who sign the voluntary pledge provided for in the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.Currently, existing law establishes a Code of Fair Campaign Practices to which a candidate may voluntarily subscribe and provides a pledge by which the candidate declares that he or she will not use or permit any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical health status, or age. This Code of Fair Campaign Practices and a copy of the Elections Code provisions are required to be provided to candidates by the Registrar of Voters at the time of a declaration of candidacy, nomination papers, or any other paper evidencing an intention to be a candidate for public office are issued.“It is wrong to defile the honor of the democratic process with vicious name-calling and whisper campaigns that have nothing to do with debate, values, or issues,” said Speaker pro Tem Yee. “I can not, and will not, stand idle while my friends in the gay community continue to receive inferior treatment and unequal rights.” In a vague veto message, Governor Schwarzenegger stated: “The Code of Fair Campaign Practices is unenforceable other than through the exercise of the vote at the ballot box. Candidates and campaigns are free to make their case to the voters about whether their campaign follows or their opponent ignores ‘basic principles of decency, honesty, and fair play.’” “Clearly, the Governor is more concerned with firming up his base for the special election than protecting basic, fundamental civil rights for all our citizens,” said Speaker pro Tem Yee. “Gay-bating and playing politics with civil rights, justice, and equality is not only unethical, it is potentially dangerous to those we seek to protect in this legislation.” “We are extremely disappointed by Governor Schwarzenegger's veto of legislation that would have added LGBT people to the list of groups covered by the Fair Political Practice Act's voluntary pledge,” said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California. “Regardless of what he thinks about the enforceability of the voluntary pledge, it is ludicrous to exclude one group of people from the rights and protections granted to others. The exclusion of LGBT citizens in this case is just simply an unacceptable form of discrimination.” In 1996, then Assemblymember Shelia Kuehl introduced nearly identical legislation (AB 2283), which failed in its first hearing on a 3-4 vote. This year’s AB 866 however has received far greater support; in fact, two Republicans joined 45 Democrats when the bill passed the Assembly in April.
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