What is the Schwarzenegger Legacy for the LGBT Community?

Cross-posted from the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker blog.

In their Opinion LA blog, the LA Times calls Governor Schwarzenegger “the gay friendly governator.”  Sure, he has recently been getting a lot of respect for declining, repeatedly, to get involved on behalf of Proposition 8.  But how much is that worth?  

Here’s the Times take on the issue:

Who could have called it in 2003: Arnold Schwarzenegger, the body-building terminator who originally showcased his brutish masculinity as a campaign centerpiece and once called Democrats “girlie men,” could go down in history as California’s most gay-friendly governor to date. Sure, Schwarzenegger’s done more for gay men and women when he’s done nothing: Though he vetoed then-Assemblyman Mark Leno’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005 (legislation that was almost certainly illegal under Proposition 22), he and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown have refused to defend Proposition 8 in federal court.

This is in the context of a bill, AB 2199, that would delete from the state law books an official policy of curing homosexuality that recently passed out of the Legislature and is now heading for the Governor’s desk. He’ll likely sign the bill, as, truthfully, it isn’t all that controversial.  It sailed through both houses, with but one dissenting vote.  The one vote would be the anachronistic and bigoted Assemblyman from San Diego, Joel Anderson.

It is great that Arnold has been on our side in the last few years.  But, he has never been willing to put any of his own political capital on the line.  Instead, he’s content to wait it out.  He vetoed the Harvey Milk Day bill before signing it.  And with Mark Leno’s marriage bills, he ran for the hills. His rationale was that somebody, the judges, the people, anybody but him, should say something first.  Regardless of whether he thought Prop 22 was unconstitutional back in 2005 or not, he was not willing to take the lead by just signing the bill.  If marriage inequality was odious to the constitution 6 months ago, it was odious in 2005 as well.  Would it have stirred up some controversy? Most definitely.  But real leaders have a tendency to do that.

Or perhaps he could have expended a bit of energy in 2008 campaigning against Prop 8? He did make a token endorsement of Prop 8, but beyond that was out of the picture.

But, LGBT issues go beyond the single issue of marriage, and on transgender rights he hasn’t been quite so good, even of late:

On 12 October 2009, California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, fell short of ensuring full protection of LGBTQ people in the California’s prison system. Choosing to veto  the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act (AB 382, Ammiano) and the Equal ID Act (AB 1185, Lieu), he has failed to cement two crucial policies into law. Needless to say, the LGBTQ community has been failed, and must now overturn the Governor’s cruel and unusual decision.

First and foremost, the Governor’s reasons for vetoing the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act (AB 382, Ammiano), was due to the fact that California’s prison system already takes gender identity and sexual orientation into account when housing prisoners. Whilst that is very likely the case, GLBTQ inmates shall remain vulnerable until this becomes actual law. Until then, human rights violations may continue.

As for the vetoing of the Equal ID Act (AB 1185, Lieu), the Governor’s reasons were similar. Thanks to a past landmark victory, Somers v. Superior Court, it had already been ruled unconstitutional to deny transgender inmates the right to petition a gender change. Despite this fact, the Transgender Law Center asserts that the “Equal ID Act would have alleviated any confusion in the statutory language itself.” (Examiner blogs)

These veto messages are hardly the stuff of civil rights heroes. You hope, you think gender identity is considered in jails and prisons?  Well, that might be nice in theory, but in reality the situation isn’t quite so smooth. Transgender prisoners face very difficult conditions in the prisons, and very little extra caution is given to them.

In the end, I find it difficult to call this Governor gay friendly. Real friends are there for you, good times or bad.  This one swoops in when the tide is clearly turning. At best, I would call him a frenemy.  

5 thoughts on “What is the Schwarzenegger Legacy for the LGBT Community?”

  1. Schwarzenegger has no core principles, which is why he can tout support for Gay marriage, but not actually campaign against H8, pretend to be environmental, then veto over 60% of the key pieces of legislation on the enviro legislation.

    It’s all soundbites for an actor who makes his most memorable statement in three words.

    If you have ever heard him speak at an event, it is mindboggling the way he can speak, rolling out one sound bite after another with no attempt to link them together with any logic or theme.

    Worst Governor Ever.

  2. I agree totally with the article and previous comment. I remember way back on an appearance on Jay Leno’s show (where Arnold seems to make his important policy statements), he said on Gay Marriage would sign a bill if the people voted for it. Well they did through their legislators on Mark Leno’s bill, and he still vetoed it. He does not lead on any issue but gets involved, like on Prop 8, after the fact.    

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