HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
JUNE 10, 2005
I national news
Marriage bill co-sponsor abstained from vote in Calif.
CALIFORNIA, continued from Page 1
the same-sex Latino couples in their districts.
According to Assembly member Rudy
Bermudez (D-Los Angeles), the power of the
Catholic Church in the Latino community
was a factor in why several Latino
Democratic Assembly members did not support the bill.
Burmudez said that he voted for the
marriage bill, though his office was visited by several religious groups that
expressed opposition to the measure.
Burmudez said that although he sees
same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue,
he is concerned about the backlash that
AB 19 may provoke.
"When the Latinos were pushing
hard for immigrants' rights for children, the radical right came in and
pushed actions that eroded affirmative
action for all," Burmudez said. "The
radical right, who sells bigotry and
racism, they are going to attack in an
initiative process. ... We are going to
lose rights we shouldn't be losing."
Monica Taher monitors the Spanish
language media in California for its portrayal of gays as a media coordinator for
the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against
"The media in California has evolved,"
Taher said. "They have been covering the
issue from a human standpoint interview
ing couples about how [AB 19] would affect
them. This is an obvious difference from
how gay and lesbian issues were covered
10 years ago."
Taher said that the Latino social conservatives, like social conservatives in
general have promoted fear, ignorance
and confusion with statements like, "If
we let gay and lesbian people get married today, next they are going to want to
marry their cats."
The religious messages against samesex marriage in California are coming not
so much from the church directly as from
outside groups that are using religious
language to urge Latinos to oppose same
sex marriage, Taher said.
Log Cabin blames Dems for loss
The vote on AB 19 took place in the context of broader legal battles over marriage
in the state.
Assembly members said that their
offices were besieged with calls both for
and against the measure up until the
moment of the final vote.
Assembly member Mervyn Dymally (D-
Compton), one of the co-sponsors of the
bill, was absent on the day of the vote. AB
19 proponents speculated that the absence
of a key supporter dissuaded a few undecided Assembly members from voting for
the bill. Dymally's office did not comment
on his reasons for not voting.
"I think that the vote on AB19 shows
that the LGBT community has a lot of
work to do here in California to educate
the public in general," said Jeff Bissiri,
director of the Log Cabin Republicans of
California, a gay GOP group.
Bissiri said that the bill failed because
it lacked support in the Democratic Party.
"The simple math is that if Democrats
want a bill to pass the Assembly it will pass."
John Marble, spokesperson for the
National Stonewall Democrats, a partisan gay
rights group, said that the bulk of the blame
should be laid at the feet of the Republicans.
"There are a dozen Log Cabin
Republican chapters in California,
Marble said. "They failed to convince
even a single Republican Assembly
member to stand up for gays and their
families in one of the most progressive
states in the country."
One reason given by those who opposed
AB 19 is that the people had already spoken on the definition of marriage when
they adopted Proposition 22 in 2000, which
said that marriage should be between and
man and a woman only. Laws adopted by
voter initiatives in California cannot be
changed by the Legislature.
The idea that Prop 22 and AB 19
would conflict was strengthened when a
judge upheld the California law expanding domestic partnership rights. In that
case, conservative groups argued that
California was violating Prop 22 by
"creating marriage under another
name" with expanded domestic partnership rights. The judge found that the
law did not conflict with Prop 22,
because it did not create marriage in
that marriage is limited to a man and a
woman in California.
In reaction to the ruling that upheld
the domestic partnership laws, a coalition of social conservative groups proposed a constitutional amendment to ban
same-sex marriage. In California, constitutional amendments can be initiated
either through the legislature or through
The marriage amendment failed to
pass the House or Senate, and amendment proponents filed paperwork to
begin a voter initiative. A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is expected to be on the ballot in
June of 2006.
Pam Chamberlain is a researcher with
Political Research Associates, an independent non-profit research center that
studies social conservatives.
Chamberlain said that the
Massachusetts case that established samesex marriage happened because the
lawyers involved in the case chose a strategic time to make their arguments.
"Whenever there is an attempt by a
social group to advance, according to
social movement theory, there is always a
backlash, that is part of the process,"
"Abortion used to be the touchstone
issue that could unite disparate segments
of the right," Chamberlain said. "But it
turns out now plenty of people who might
have an abortion are still against same-sex
marriage. Homophobic messages really
Religious groups divided
Religious groups were divided over AB 19.
The California Council of Churches,
which represents 31 mainstream and progressive Protestant denominations, has
been supportive of AB 19 and of the right of
churches to support or refuse marriages.
Elizabeth Sholes, communications director for the Council of Churches, said that
California's domestic partnership laws
established secular rights for same-sex couples and that marriage is a faith issue that
should be left to individual congregations.
Sholes said that the Council of
Churches believes that the Bible rails
against abusive relationships, not gay
relationships, and that committed relationships strengthen society
"Religious support for same-sex marriage has not received much media attention, Sholes said, because it makes better
news when people speak with venom."
Carol Hogan, communications director
for the California Catholic Conference,
said the attempt to pass AB 19 was a "fool's
errand," because of Prop 22 and
California's law against overturning
Hogan said that the Catholic Church
was not the lead organization opposing
AB 19. She said the church opposes discrimination against gays and is not averse
to domestic partnership benefits.
Hogan said that the Catholic Church
believes that the state should have a role
in defining marriage.
The conflict between religious and civil
rights perspectives on same-sex marriage
was exemplified during the Assembly vote
by the struggle of Assembly member
Alberto Torrico (D-Newark), a born-again
Christian and civil rights lawyer.
Torrico was initially among those who
abstained from the vote, but after intensive consultations with religious groups
and direct lobbying by a gay family from
his district Torrico ended up voting for AB
19 in the final round.
"Render onto Ceasar that which is
Ceasar's. Render onto God that which is
God's," Torrico said in explaining his vote.
Ford boycott bombs
By EARTHA MELZER
Less than a week after the American
Family Association, a Mississippi-based
social conservative organization, declared
a boycott of the Ford Motor Company, it
called it off, saying that it would put the
boycott on hold till December pending talks
with the company.
The boycott was started on May 31 in
response to Ford's support of gay groups,
advertising in gay publications, inclusive
workplace policies and sponsorship of
According to the AFA, Ford has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to
gay civil rights groups such as the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and
the International Gay & Lesbian Human
On a Web site created for the boycott
the AFA argued that people should not buy
Ford products — including Lincoln,
Mercury, Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar and Land
Rover — because profits from those sales
would go to organizations that favor samesex marriage.
The boycott suspension was declared
soon after the owner of a Ford dealership in
Dallas, Jerry Reynolds, was alerted to the
boycott and grew concerned that it might
effect his business. Reynolds contacted AFA
Executive Director Tim Wildmon, arranged
a meeting between AFA and concerned dealers and struck a suspension deal.
An article in the online Automotive
Business Review, which ran while the boycott was in effect, said that the AFA boycott
was unlikely to generate a problematic level
of negative publicity for Ford and might
even increase sales by gay customers.
Dan Sturgis of Pride at Work, the gay and
lesbian caucus of the AFL-CIO which represents the United Auto Workers, said that
when the boycott was announced, workers
were reassured about their own standing.
Sturgis said Ford officials told him that they
-were receiving an equal mix of support for
and against the company's gay policies.
The Human Rights Campaign and the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
released statements celebrating the quick
end to the boycott. "Ford has made it very
clear that they will not respond to AFA
demands and the AFA has backed down,"
said Roberta Sklar, communications director for the NG<F. "We have no reason to
be concerned about Ford having a conversation with the AFA."