- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

California Gov. Gray Davis risks galvanizing the forces pushing for his removal if he does not abandon his support for two homosexual-rights bills before the state’s Oct. 7 recall election.

One bill would grant partners in civil unions nearly all protections offered married couples, and another would prevent private businesses from discriminating against transgender and transvestite job applicants.

The recall movement pits opponents and supporters of the proposed legislation against each other. Opponents strongly back Mr. Davis’ ouster, while members of the homosexual-rights movement are fighting to keep him in place.

Mr. Davis, a Democrat, has been a defender of homosexual rights, signing bills that have incrementally expanded rights for civil unions. Activists supporting the bills said this week they are confident he will do so again.

But recent polls suggest public support for homosexual rights is slipping and that may put pressure on Mr. Davis to veto the bills.

A national survey of 600 persons by Republican pollster Andres McKenna shows opposition to homosexual marriages remains strong, with 53 percent of those polled opposing them and 18 percent in favor. The poll, released earlier this month, has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Opponents of the legislation vow to hold the governor’s feet to the fire if he approves the bills, which they say are out of step with the values of most Californians.

“They are dynamite pieces of legislation that could blow up right in his face,” said Randy Thomasson, director of Campaign for California Families, a group that has toured the state to mobilize opposition to the bills.

Assembly Bill 205 would extend the rights and duties of marriage to domestic partners. It has sailed through committees in the state Senate after approval from the Assembly and is expected to soon land on the governor’s desk.

The bill is championed as a step toward equality by Geoff Kors, director of Equality California, which has been enoucraging supporters to call the governor and urge him to sign the bill. A Davis spokeswoman said the governor had not taken a position on the bill.

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, an openly homosexual Democrat who co-authored AB 205, said she expects it will be an issue in the recall election, but believes Californians are supportive of expanding the rights of sexual partners. California has led other states in expanding the rights of homosexuals.

“I honestly have never understood why people feel that the ability to make a contract to share property or family responsibilities is in any way threatening to anyone else’s marriage,” Ms. Kuehl said. “I think we should be able to get married and this is a far cry from it.”

She said the bill has nothing to do with marriage and merely expands the rights of sexual partners, which can benefit straight couples who do not want to get married.

Critics of the domestic partners bill say it is an attempt to overrule the will of the people, who three years ago approved an initiative defining marriages as relationships between men and women. Sixty-one percent of voters supported the initiative.

“AB 205 is a marriage bill by a different name,” said Benjamin Lopez, a lobbyist for the Traditional Values Coallition. “Granting homosexual couples all the rights and benefits of marriage but not giving them the name of ‘marriage’ is a matter of cheap semantics.”

Mathew Streb, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said AB 205 could pose a problem to Davis in the election, though he doubted the election would turn on that issue alone.

“Gay ‘marriage’ is really the one issue where the public is not completely on board yet,” he said. “Even some liberals are not supportive of that. The only person who has made as bold a statement as [AB 205] is [Democratic Presidential Candidate] Howard Dean.”

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