Political expediency at the expense of human rights

It is clear that Gov. Schwarzenegger sees the writing on the wall: the right wing is the only support he has left. So even though he ran on a platform of being socially moderate, including supporting gay rights, Schwarzenegger knows that he has to pander to the one group of people remaining who actually support him.

“Schwarzenegger is facing plummeting popularity just two years after chasing Democratic Governor Gray Davis out of office in a recall election in 2003. He has taken on nurses, teachers, and state workers and has called a special election for November, the centerpiece of which is a ballot measure that would redraw the lines of the state’s districts to reduce the Democrats’ majority in the Legislature. But the idea of the election is not faring well with voters, and the Democrats are pressing legislation that would allow him to cancel it. Recent polls show that only about 27 percent of the state’s voters like the idea of the election at all.
So advocates claim Schwarzenegger is using the issue of gay rights to shore up eroding support in his right-wing fundamentalist base. On Tuesday, the governor also vetoed a minor bill that would have added sexual orientation to a voluntary list of prohibited topics in political campaign advertising.”

The article from Gay City News also prints a sizable excerpt of Speak Out California Board Member and Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg:
During the floor debate, Goldberg told the story of her own wedding to 26-year-partner Sharron Stricker. She married Stricker on the steps of San Francisco’s City hall in March 2004 during a brief period when Mayor Gavin Newsom had authorized same-sex marriages, before being stopped by state courts.
“We went there to do that … because we thought we would be making a statement about our beliefs. We really weren’t that into it. It was kind of a last minute decision,” Goldberg said. “Sheila Kuehl, Senator Kuehl, said she would do the service for other people and we thought we’d join in. Up until the moment we were actually standing there and she was saying by the authority vested in her she now pronounced us married, I had no idea. I had no idea what a difference that would make.
“Now all of you who’ve been married. You knew that. You knew that. I didn’t. I really didn’t. It was not something I ever thought would ever happen to me.
“I have to tell you it was the most overwhelming moment – I burst into tears. It was the most overwhelming moment I can remember in my adult life…
“I still have my ring. I’m still married. Sharron still wears her ring.
“Why do I tell you this?
“I tell you all this because this isn’t an intellectual exercise. You understand. You who are married here. You understand how important marriage is. I just can’t understand for the life of me, why you could deny it to me.
“I don’t get it.
“I truly don’t get it.”

Disappointment … Disgrace

The champagne was not even uncorked before Gov. Schwarzenegger announced last night that he would veto the ground-breaking law passed by the California Assembly Tuesday granting same-sex couples the legal right to marry.
We hear from the Governor’s spokespeople that he believes the law should be decided by either the people or the courts. Apparently they didn’t make him read the State Constitution before he left the movie set for the Governor’s Office, but the legislative and executive branches are also responsible for making law. In fact, some would argue that it’s their job to enact the most difficult laws, since they are the ones we have entrusted to lead this state.
The argument that he can’t sign this important law because of Proposition 22 is a very thinly veiled copout. Not only is Prop 22 a different animal than the same-sex marriage law (the latter goes to people’s constitutional rights, which trumps all else) it was passed more than five years ago, before San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom showed the world that granting marriage licenses to loving same-sex couples would not cause giant cracks in the earth to open up. Schwarzenegger recently sent out an email criticizing a poll because it gauged people’s views from two weeks earlier. Surely he could see how opinions about the same-sex marriage issue might be changed in five whole years. But no, he insists on pandering to his right-wing allies.
Many have expressed disappointment and outrage that they didn’t even get 24 hours to celebrate this hard-fought victory. Perhaps Schwarzenegger’s advisors told him that he had to come out against the bill sooner rather than later, in order to curb the flood of lobbying letters and calls that were jamming up his office.
Here at Speak Out California, we don’t plan on letting him get off that easy. Send a letter to the Governor now, urging him to do the right thing and sign this bill.


Governor: Support equal rights for all

Update, Sept. 29: Gov. Schwarzenegger has vetoed this bill, which marked the first time a state Legislature granted same-sex couples the legal right to marry. See this post on the weblog for more details.


Less than 24 hours after the California Legislature passed groundbreaking legislation giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry, Gov. Schwarzenegger has said he will veto the measure.
We must do everything we can to pursuade him against a veto that would only pander to a minority right-wing constituency, while furthering blatant discrimination in our state.
As progressives, our values of tolerance and understanding call on us to judge people on the quality of their character and not superficial names and labels. Send a letter to the Governor now, calling on him to demonstrate true leadership and strength by signing the Civil Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.

Democrats stand up for love

California Assembly Democrats have passed a bill that would end discrimination in the state’s marriage laws, allowing same-sex couples to legally wed. AB 849, which was already passed in the Senate – again without a single Republican vote – will now go to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk.
The collective vote by the Legislature is historic. No other legislative body in the United States has ever legalized same-sex marriage. It should make us all proud to live in California, where we actually take seriously the notion that all people should have equal rights under the law.

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Reaching out to the people of the Gulf Coast

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Speak Out California President Hannah-Beth Jackson sent out the following message to members today:

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”

– Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Strength to Love,’ 1963

As we share in sadness and despair at the extent of the death and destruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, our hearts go out to the thousands of people who are suffering the direct impacts of this great tragedy. In the spirit of community, and because of our values that guide us to take care of one another, we wanted to offer the opportunity for our members to give to the devastated victims of Hurricane Katrina. We know there are several options available, and we thank you if you have already supported one or more of them. If not, may we suggest an option that you might not already have considered:
Click here to support ACORN
ACORN is a national community organization headquartered in New Orleans that fights to defend the social and economic rights of low and moderate income families, those most heavily hurt by the recent storm and lack of adequate relief response. The ACORN national headquarters in New Orleans has succumbed to the flood waters and many ACORN family members throughout New Orleans have been displaced.
ACORN is not a relief organization. Your tax-deductible donation will help ACORN:
1. Establish a temporary headquarters in Baton Rouge and reopen their New Orleans office as soon as possible;
2. Service housing and credit needs of impacted communities;
3. Organize individuals to ensure that low-income neighborhoods and families have a voice that will challenge public officials to treat all people fairly and get relief and rebuilding aid to the people who need it most.
Of course, many of you have responded to our political calls over the past several weeks and months, and we are grateful. Your efforts just this week have helped lead to the rejection of the Governor’s pro-industry, anti-environment selection to head the California Air Resources Board. You will be pleased to know that Thursday the Senate rejected Cindy Tuck’s nomination as the Air Resources Board chair. Your rapid and overwhelming response sent a clear message to the Senate, and the Governor, that we are committed to protecting public health over corporate wealth.
Thank you again for your help and activism, through this current tragedy and always.
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the rest of the Speak Out California team

Cindy Tuck rejected by Senate

The oil and chemical industry lobbyist that Gov. Schwarzenegger tried to put in charge of the state’s clean air program was soundly rejected by the Senate Thursday, a victory for environmental advocates and all state residents who care about the quality of the air we breathe.
Speak Out California played a role in that victory by sending more than 3,000 petition letters to decision-makers on the Senate Rules Committee and 37 Senators from throughout California. Sen. Debra Bowen’s office said the grass-roots activism made a difference in the outcome.
We thank all of you for taking the time to be a part of this important fight, and for continuing to be active members of the California progressive community. Stay tuned for more ways to help effect positive change in our state!

Three bills for a better California

Update, Sept. 29: The Governor vetoed AB 48, which would have required a $1 minimum wage increase for California workers currently making $6.75 an hour. You can read his shallow and hypocritical veto message here.
Update, Sept. 9: Thank you for all of your letters in support of three bills for a better California. The Legislature has passed AB 48, but we must keep the heat on Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has hinted that he will veto the measure. Speak Out California will continue to follow AB 172 and SB 840 in the next legislative year.


The legislative session is winding down, but it is not too late to take action now in support of three bills that together send a strong message to our legislators and the Governor about our values and priorities:

  • AB 48: Minimum wage increase
  • AB 172: Universal preschool
  • SB 840: Health care for all

These bills go to the heart of our progressive agenda of equal access to quality education, economic fairness and the basic human right of health care coverage. All of these legislative proposals reflect some aspect of our core values, and would help in the long process of getting our state back on track.
While Speak Out California will be part of the effort to defeat Gov. Schwarzenegger’s ideas at the ballot box this November, we also refuse to let his $50 million distraction deter us from advocating for what really matters: improving the lives of working families in this state.


A question of priorities

Gov. Schwarzenegger finally decided to head out to the brand new University of California at Merced today, although he is skipping the official opening and big celebration taking place Monday. Today’s trip was not pre-arranged; it was announced after two days of bad press in which questions were rightfully raised about what could possibly be more important than the opening of the first UC campus in 40 years, and the first ever in the San Joaquin Valley?
Unfortunately for the governor, he doesn’t have a good reason. His spokespeople say he has “other plans,” but we’re not being let in on what they are, other than “special election issues.” His staff says he has no scheduled events.
Perhaps Schwarzenegger needs some time to recover from his recent vacation and busy fund-raising schedule that included a $10,000-per-seat Rolling Stones concert. Or perhaps, even though he is supposed to be leading this state, he just doesn’t understand the importance of accessible and affordable higher education.
UC Merced should dramatically increase the college-going rates of Central Valley’s young people, who have traditionally lagged behind the rest of California. Schwarzenegger’s rhetoric is so ridiculous that one really must judge him based on his actions. And his decision to skip the UC Merced opening speaks volumes.