Kevin And Don Respond To Being Self Loathing

Looking back at their journey from the Stonewall Democratic Club to Log Cabin Republicans, they claim it was one that was actually started by the democrats. After being told that marriage as not a priority on the agenda in 1995, they became disillusioned with the DEMS. For a decade they felt like they did not belong until they met the republicans of the Log Cabin Republican Club and discovered they too shared a dream of marriage equality. This blog is now a digital time capsule of their time as Republicans and moderated by a friend and supporter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

LGBT Bills Draw More GOP Votes

(Pictured: James Vaughn and Other Members of Log Cabin Republicans at The Schwarzenegger Victory Party, Beverly Hills, CA, November 7, 2006.)

Article (Not Photo) Originally Published 07/19/2007 in the BAY AREA REPORTER
by Matthew S. Bajko

A surprising change has occurred with Republican lawmakers during this year's legislative session in Sacramento. They are voicing less dissent to LGBT legislation, and some GOP members are casting "aye" votes when it comes to certain gay rights measures.

The actions of the minority party in the state Capitol have not gone unnoticed. Last week the Assembly passed on a 70-1 vote a resolution urging Congress and President Bush to pass LGBT-inclusive federal hates crimes legislation.

Immediately afterward, Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, noted in a press release that the resolution passed with "historic bipartisan support." Joining 46 Democrats were 24 Republicans in favor of the measure, the most bipartisan support ever received in the California Legislature for a measure affecting the LGBT community, according to EQCA.

Also last week, one of the three Republican Senate Education Committee members voted for AB394, the Safe Place to Learn Act, which gives guidance to school districts and education officials on how to ensure LGBT students are not harassed or attacked at school. State Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) cast the lone GOP vote for the bill.

West Hollywood resident and gay Republican Scott Schmidt wrote on his BoifromTroy blog that the two votes last week signal that some California Republicans are "turning the corner" in the fight for LGBT rights.

"Sure these are baby steps, but Log Cabin's presence in the state Capitol seems to be affecting change – even if it is incremental," wrote Schmidt.

Maldonado's vote was a big surprise, said James Vaughn, California director of the gay Log Cabin Republican group.

"No, we were not expecting his vote. We hadn't been actively working that bill so it was a bit of a surprise to me," said Vaughn, who spoke to the senator this week about his vote. "He said, 'If there is discrimination they should be monitoring it and that I have no problems supporting that.' We will be taking that message to all the other senators."

Geoff Kors, EQCA executive director, said while the majority of Republican lawmakers still oppose LGBT legislation, it is an encouraging sign to see some begin to break away. Having five of their Democratic colleagues be openly gay certainly has helped, he said.

"We are getting one or two Republican votes on bills, which is great and a step in the right direction. The hate crimes bill had almost unanimous support, which is truly unheard of in California to have that level of Republican support on any Equality California-sponsored bills dealing with our community," said Kors. "We have known for a long time when people know openly LGBT people they are more likely to support LGBT rights. That is truer for politicians."

Kors said the importance of the hate crimes legislation was made plain for legislators by the deadly attack July 1 against a young man from Fiji in a Sacramento area park. Friends of the victim, Satender Singh, have charged that members of the area's Slavic community attacked Singh because they perceived him to be gay.

"I think their votes are a response to that. They need to stand up and say that is not okay," said Kors.

While unfortunate, Vaughn agreed that the death "personalized the issue" for lawmakers.

"When you can put a name and a face to how a bill will impact people, I think that helps make that point for these GOP members," he said.

The votes last week and similar actions taken this session by GOP lawmakers are the outgrowth of Log Cabin's lobbying efforts in Sacramento and within the state Republican Party over the last several years, said Vaughn.

Log Cabin members have taken a cue from their Democratic counterparts and have become more active on Republican central committees, political campaigns, and at the party's convention. Vaughn has also spent his time in Sacramento meeting with Republican lawmakers and their staffs armed with research and data that includes how many gay people live within each member's legislative district.

He also sent a letter last month to all of the Legislature's GOP lawmakers detailing the results of a national poll that showed Republican voters are more supportive of LGBT rights than previously thought. Instead of opposing LGBT legislation, Vaughn argued supporting such bills is how to win elections in the state.

"When we oppose equality, we risk turning off not just independent voters, but turning off the base of our own party," wrote Vaughn in his letter.

In an e-mail to the Bay Area Reporter Vaughn argued such tactics are paying off.

"We are working with Republicans even though they may be slower about this. I think of it as the 'No Straight Person Left Behind Act.' You have to work with people and calmly explain things to them to win them over, not scream at them from the street outside," he wrote. "And being open and honest about who you are, letting them meet someone gay or lesbian, has the same impact as it does with any straight person who becomes an ally. It's very hard work and we get grief from both sides, as it were, but it is the most effective work that can be done."

Kors agreed Log Cabin having a dedicated staff member in Sacramento has begun to yield results.

"There is no doubt that is helpful," he said.

The legislature's gay lawmakers have made note of the small but growing gay-positive stance of their legislative counterparts. Santa Cruz Assemblyman John Laird, chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, said while the number of Republican votes on gay bills remains minimal, what is striking from years past is the reduction in anti-gay arguments during debates on legislation.

"I have noticed a distinct change but it has been in tone and not quite yet necessarily in actions. I haven't seen on the Assembly side many votes for LGBT bills," said Laird. "To me one noticeable change was debate on the marriage bill. There was a very limited number of opposition speakers and they weren't very strong in tone."

The Assembly passed the same-sex marriage bill on a 42-34 vote June 6 and the bill is now pending in the Senate. Despite their votes against the measure, privately some Republican lawmakers have let it be known they are supportive of the legislation.

Two years ago after the Assembly first passed the measure, Laird said one Republican who had just cast a vote against the bill came over to him to congratulate him on its passage.

"He said 'Congratulations,' and then started talking about having a staff member who is gay and he and his wife went out with him and his partner all the time and really liked them," recounted Laird.

During this year's debate Laird said one Republican member who gave a "rambling speech" opposing the marriage bill later said to him his concentration was thrown off because Laird watched him the entire time.

"I think privately some do not have problems with the bill but feel like they have to vote with their party," said Laird.

Another GOPer who has gotten to know Laird and his partner of nearly 12 years, John Flores, told him socializing with the gay couple has impacted his thinking about marriage equality.

"That was as far as he was willing to go. It was significant to me," said Laird. "Now that we have partnered gay people in the legislature it makes it a different thing for some people."

Vaughn said he has had similar conversations with lawmakers in private. Publicly he doesn't expect any Republicans to support marriage equality this year, but Vaughn said his party's members are expressing support privately.

"I have met with staff and legislators who say 'I support your views on this, including marriage, but the people in my district, I am sure, feel differently,'" said Vaughn, who is trying to raise money to do polling in Republican districts on the issue. "They are not ready to jump on some things like marriage but some of these other things they are coming around more. They need more political cover and the data I am giving to them is providing that to them."

Some issues that Republicans are willing to support include AB102, which makes it easier for both married couples and domestic partners to change their last names. The Assembly passed the bill on May 7 with a 45-20 vote. Three Republicans – Anthony Adams from Monrovia, Sam Blakeslee from San Luis Obispo, and Roger Niello from Sacramento – supported the bill.

State Senator Carole Migden's SB105, which would simplify the process of filing joint state income tax returns for registered domestic partners, has the support of the GOP caucus. It passed out of the Senate 37-2, with all but two Republicans voting for it.

Another strategy increasingly being used by Republicans when it comes to LGBT bills is to either abstain from voting or be marked absent. It allows the members to give passive support to the measures while at the same time ducking complaints from their conservative constituents.

Such a move was utilized in the Assembly on AB14, Laird's Civil Rights Act of 2007, which ensures various state codes and laws include LGBT non-discrimination language. The Assembly passed the bill on a 46-29 vote May 21. Blakeslee, along with Paul Cook from Yucaipa and Bonnie Garcia from Cathedral City, are listed as absent, abstaining, or not voting on the measure.

Adams left a voice message Tuesday responding to the B.A.R. but could not be reached. Garcia told the B.A.R. Thursday, after the paper went to press, that the Republican caucus is no longer filled with only conservative members.

"What I think we have had is huge diversity in the membership. We are very progressive, we do have a very big tent," said Garcia, whose district has one of the largest concentrations of LGBT people outside of San Francisco. "We are not all robots that march to the same drummer."

She said unlike Democrats, her party simply doesn't advertise its moderate side. "We never went out and raised money or put up a moderate banner and said we don't always agree with the recommendation of the party or consultants," she said. "We speak our own minds and vote for our districts and our conscience. More so over the last two years, people are doing just that."

Last year Garcia, vice chair of the housing and community development committee, voted for legislation introduced by Laird that updated the state's housing codes to insure they contained LGBT nondiscrimination protections. She did so because the bill's language "only had to do with addressing an inequity. It was something legitimate and something that required us to support it."

Laird noted it was the first time any Republican had cast an "aye" vote in the five years of his pushing such legislation.

"Except for the time Dennis Mountjoy accidentally voted for one my bills, it was the first time a Republican has voted for them," said Laird. "Three Republicans did not vote this year; they sat in their chairs and did not vote. That was significant because I considered that not voting is an affirmative act."

Vaughn is hopeful more Republicans will begin to change their stance when it comes to LGBT legislation. As Republican voters grow more gay-friendly, so to do their elected officials, he said.

"Republicans are getting used to the idea of equality and polling shows that. That has gone up the ladder to elected officials themselves," said Vaughn.