Sunday, April 13, 2008

Arnie wows the gays at Log Cabin convention

Schwarzenegger: Marriage-ban effort 'a total waste of time'
200 at Log Cabin convention
No McCain endorsement yet
by Rex Wockner

SAN DIEGO -- Speaking April 11 at the Log Cabin Republicans National Convention, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the effort by anti-gay forces to amend the California Constitution to permanently ban same-sex marriage is "a total waste of time" and that he will fight against it.
Anti-gay activists claim they have collected almost enough voter signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot that would let voters directly amend the Constitution.

Schwarzenegger addressed the 200 LGBT Republicans for about 20 minutes, ending with a question-and-answer session with Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon.

Sammon asked the governor: "Our organization started here in California in 1978 and grew out of a ballot initiative -- the Briggs Initiative -- which would have prohibited gay and lesbian people from teaching in California public schools. And during that campaign, former Gov. Reagan spoke out against it. And here we are 30 years later and we're looking ahead to November, where there very well could be a ballot initiative that's meant to forever ban same-sex couples from having the same responsibilities through marriage that other couples do. Can we count on your opposition to this effort to ban gay people from having marriage equality?"
Schwarzenegger replied: "Well, first of all, I think that it would never happen in California because I think that California people are much further along with that issue. And, number two, I will always be there to fight against that, because it would never happen. I think we need a constitutional amendment so that foreign-born citizens can run for president, but not about gay marriage. That's a total waste of time."

Twenty-six seconds of raucous applause greeted the remark.
"It's really significant that he made that announcement today," Sammon said afterward. "I'm really excited about it and I think he'll be an important ally if this initiative ends up making the ballot."

Sammon said Schwarzenegger's aides knew he was going to ask the governor about the initiative "but, quite honestly, I didn't know how he was going to answer the question. It's really exciting news for gay and lesbian people in California and throughout the entire country."

Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors commented: "We are thrilled that he will be there with us to fight against [this initiative] should it qualify for the ballot. ... His opposition to the constitutional amendment now in circulation adds to his record of supporting many LGBT issues, including signing at least 20 [pro-gay] bills during his time in office."

A California Supreme Court ruling in a case seeking to legalize same-sex marriage is due in early June. If the initiative should qualify for the ballot and pass, it would overrule any state court decision authorizing same-sex marriage.

Schwarzenegger was very warmly received by the gay Republicans, despite the fact that he has twice vetoed bills passed by the state Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage -- which marked the only times any U.S. legislature has voted for same-sex marriage. Schwarzenegger has said legalization of same-sex marriage should be a matter for the courts or a vote by the people of the state.

On that matter, LCR's Sammon said: "[I]t's an education process on [marriage] but Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed more pro-gay bills than any governor in American history. I understand the rationale he's used for vetoing the [marriage] bills. It doesn't mean I agree with it but I understand the rationale."
In his speech to the group, Schwarzenegger joked around as he often does.

"It's wonderful to be here at the Log Cabin Republicans national conference ... because, I mean, let's be honest, it's fun to be here," he said. "When I see this great enthusiasm, I said to myself: 'What happened to all of you? Where were you when I opened up "Hercules in New York"?' That movie went in the toilet."

The governor said the Republican Party "is making a big mistake by being so extreme. But it's not the people within the party whose fault that is. It is the system that is wrong. ... How could it be a big problem to get Democrats and Republicans together? I sleep with a Democrat every night!"

In the Q&A with Sammon, Schwarzenegger added: "The Republican Party has not been as inclusive as it ought to be. As a matter of fact, my biggest criticism of the Republican Party has always been that we have lost a lot of members of the Republican Party here in California [including] gays and lesbians. ... What we need to do is, we need to go and be a party that is more inclusive. ... That's the power we have to get inside the party and to create the changes, rather than just complaining about it. ... The gay and lesbian movement, and the members, can have a tremendous impact."

A day earlier, Republican San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders addressed the convention. In a press conference last September, Sanders tearfully announced that his daughter Lisa is a lesbian, and changed his position from one of support for civil unions to support for full same-sex marriage.
"I'm proud of the political opportunity that this brings in terms of the interaction and the issues and the people you're bringing here," Sanders told the conventioneers. "I understand Gov. Schwarzenegger and [former U.N. Ambassador John] Bolton are coming in tomorrow and I think that really tells you how important all of these issues are to all of us and how important the Republican Party -- how important Log Cabin Republicans are to the whole process."
Log Cabin ended its convention with a better vibe about presidential candidate John McCain than it had about George W. Bush in 2004. The group refused to endorse Bush in 2004 and hasn't endorsed McCain yet this year.

"Our posture during this campaign was stopping Mitt Romney," Sammon said. "We're proud of the role we played [in that] with our ad campaign and, you know, Sen. McCain [is] someone who's an inclusive Republican who understands the party needs to get back to its core principles and we are excited about the campaign ahead."
LCR Communications Director Scott Tucker said: "We heard great feedback from our members this weekend. We'll continue gathering feedback and information about McCain's positions and record. ... We had a productive working meeting with his senior campaign team. We expect to be in regular communication with his campaign. I expect Log Cabin's board will make an endorsement decision by early summer."

Photos by Rex Wockner
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