Tag Archives: Gay marriage

Sen. Roy Ashburn’s Post-Outing Conversion Is Too Little, Too Late

Let’s start by saying this: Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) is a coward. Sure, on occasion, he broke party ranks to vote for a budget or something.  But for well over a decade, he served in the Legislature, consistently voting against any and all bills that protected the LGBT community. And then, as he points out in this confessional published on the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund website, he was outed in a flood of police lights. As I’ve said before, Ashburn was a slow-motion train wreck. The question was never if he was going to be outed, but when and how.  Of course, he then went ahead and made sure it was a big spectacle.  Good work, Roy.

But this little piece of work that he published, well, it’s a real piece of work.

My past actions harmed gay people.  In fact, all people are harmed when there is unequal treatment of anyone under the constitution and laws of our country.  I do not believe in discrimination, and yet my votes advanced unequal of treatment of gay people and promoted the suspicion and fear that limits people from being forthright and accepted in society.

Now, from what I have lived and learned, I want to do the best that I can to advance equality and freedom for all people.  Given the shame and confusion that many feel over their sexual orientation, perhaps my situation can serve as an example of both the harm that can come from denial and fear, and the opportunity to try to make things right.

Let’s run down this timeline.  Ashburn gets elected while outwardly proclaiming bigotry.  Ashburn legislates consistent with that outward bigotry.  Ashburn gets outed at the point of a policeman’s MAGlight. And now, finally, Ashburn decides that bigotry was ridiculous.

Well, let’s all give Roy a big ol’ group hug now, right?  Well, I’ll just go ahead and skip that.  Perhaps you would describe me as bitter, but for my part, I’ll pass on all of the mushy stuff. While I praise traditionally conservative parties for taking an enlightened stance on LGBT issues (such as the British Tories), that’s not what this is about.

This is about one guy, who lived his life selfishly.  He was too much of a coward to come out.  And let’s be clear, Ashburn was representing himself as a leader. This deception is not how a leader behaves. The lying and the sneaking, are not how a leader behaves. And the suppression of his own supposed fair-mindedness is not how a leader behaves.

Call me back after Ashburn has done some real work to repair some of the damage that he has already done. Maybe then I won’t be so cynical about his conversion via police lights.

IRS Ruling is a Big Deal for California Same-Sex Partners

While this might not have been on everybody’s radar, the IRS kicked down a huge decision for California same-sex couples. But PLR-149319-09 (PDF) has some big importance to California registered domestic partners and same-sex married couple. Long story short, the IRS is now recognizing California’s community property rules. And that’s big. Really big.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’m no accountant, but bear with me as I try to recall my tax class in law school.  Basically, California, like many Western states, has a default rule for marriage that any property acquired (other than through inheritance) is treated as “community property” between the two married spouses.  For California same-gender couples that got married in 2008, these community property rules apply unless you have opted out through contract (a “pre-nup”).  Also, in 2006 and 2007, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed, two pieces of legislation that granted registered domestic partnerships the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, with community property first being excluded for tax purposes in 2006, and then being completely folded in to the RDP in 2007.  

Of course, the problem here is that under the so-called “Defense of Marriage” Act, the federal government was not supposed to recognize any marriage not between a man and a woman. Thus, we had a real pickle on our hands. Under California property law, the property was community property, half belonged to both partners.  But how that property got there was anybody’s guess.  Just off the top of my head, there are a number of ways the federal government could have handled the issue:

1) Ignored community property between same gender couples entirely. Sure, it would cause conflicts with state tax issues, but who cares, according to the Yes on 8 folks, this is a future of civilization thing here.

2) Acknowledge the community property, treating  it as a gift between two unrelated partners for federal tax purposes. This would have been very bad for same-gender couples. Basically, couples would have had to pay gift tax on any difference in income over $13,000 (or so, depending on what the gift tax is that year). That would get pricy fast.

3) Acknowledge the community property, but treat it as earned jointly. Basically, each partner, for tax purposes, earned half of the income. This would be far more favorable and basically treat community property the same for all couples.

I’ll let you read PLR-149319-09 (PDF) on your own if you’d like to, but long story short, the IRS went for #3.  Once they went over the law, it seems obvious, but these things rarely are obvious before hand. And that’s the case here.  The IRS first relied on past precedent to first say that the federal goverment defers to the states to determine property law  (U.S. v. Mitchell) and then to say that California community property law determines who owns what for California couples (US v Malcolm).  Finally, the IRS simply stated that once California treated property as community property, the IRS would do so as well.

Now, in practical terms, what does this mean? Well, say you are a couple where one partner earns substantially more than the other.  You’ll have noticed that your California tax bills went down with community property. Now the same will apply to the federal government. For example, say “Adam” earns $50,000 as a public school teacher.  His husband “Bill” earns $150,000 as a investment hot-shot or something.  (No comment on our society’s priorities there.) Under this new law, each would report income of $100,000. For a variety of reasons in the tax code, that’s going to be advantageous. Now, I’m not a tax lawyer, and this isn’t specific advice.  If this is something that might apply, ask whomever prepares your taxes or some other tax professional.

There is one wrinkle in here. Technically, the IRS “private letter ruling” specifically addresses registered domestic partnerships, and uses that language. However, the ruling is entirely directed at the concept of community property, which applies in the same way for the 2008 marriages.  In theory, it should be handled the same way, but theory often gets you audited by the IRS.

How will the DOMA ruling affect California?

If you’ve been busy waiting for the Prop 8 ruling you may not have been expecting the news yesterday that Section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage” Act was ruled unconstitutional.  But it happened, and you have, at least in part, Martha Coakley to thank for it. (Yes, that Martha Coakley, you can check her out over the flip.) But, this decision is real, and powerful:

In the wake of DOMA, it is only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled. And this court can conceive of no way in which such a difference might be relevant to the provision of the benefits at issue. By premising eligibility for these benefits on marital status in the first instance, the federal government signals to this court that the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married individuals and unmarried individuals. To further divide the class of married individuals into those with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction without meaning. And where, as here, “there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class is different, in relevant respects” from a similarly situated class, this court may conclude that it is only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification. As irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This was actually two consolidates cases, the first case being brought by ten married couples (Gill v OPM – decision here), the other being the Massachusetts case (decision here).  In the Mass case, the judge ruled that DOMA violated the 10th Amendment. Yup, the one about the states having power over issues not delegated to the federal government.  It’s not used much, although the right wing is trying to go all anti-Obama with it these days.

Nonetheless, there are a couple of issues for Californians here. First, there are currently about 18-20 thousand same-sex married couples in the state. Give or take for folks who married in other states before moving here pre-2008 and for those relationships that have ended since then.  So, how does this ruling affect us here?

Well, unfortunately, this federal court decision really doesn’t affect us at all.  In theory, the ruling only covers Massachusetts for the time being. The case was brought on behalf of the state, and unless and until it moves up through the 1st Circuit and possibly to the Supreme Court, the case only has persuasive precedential value.  For now, DOMA is still valid in California.

That being said, there are still many ways to challenge DOMA, and this is a big first hurdle of getting a federal judge to call it for what it is: clearly unconstitutional.  We should see additional lawsuits challenging DOMA from a variety of legal fronts over the coming months and years.

Of course, that Prop 8 decision will also play a major role in all this.  The end game is, of course, for universal marriage equality, but the legal doors on the way there are slowly and steadily opening.

Check the flip for an interview with Martha Coakley about the decision as well as an interview with Tobias Wolfe, President Obama’s campaign advisor for LGBT issues.

Background and Coakley:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tobias Wolff:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On the Prop 8 Closing Arguments

I’ve been trying to keep abreast of the Prop 8 closing arguments, hitting refresh on several different websites.  Through all of this, I have tried to at least, on occasion, take a step back to be as objective as possible.  I was always something of a skeptic. After all, much of our judiciary has been appointed by Republicans.  It just seemed like the logical conclusion of all this was some sort of temporary victory for Maggie Gallagher’s team.  However, all that being said, I am now coming to the conclusion that our odds really aren’t that bad.  And in many ways, the real legal reach would be to not overturn Prop 8.

That isn’t to say that Prop 8 will be overturned by the Supreme Court.  The Roberts court has been known to make a few reaches of legal logic in the past, and a decision favoring Cooper’s  case would not really shock anybody.  But, the case that the legal team, headed by Olson and Boies, has built here is really quite solid.

As Rick noted, Judge Walker spent much of the day trying to get a legally valid point to emerge from Cooper’s mouth.  But, when it comes down to it, this is the heart of their case:

The legislative process involves setting priorities, making difficult decisions, making imperfect decisions, and approaching problems incrementally. That process is what is at work in this state.

And it’s at work elsewhere in this country. And as the court…said, there is a debate about the morals, the practicalities, and the wisdom of this issue that really goes to the nature of our culture. And the constitution should allow that debate to go forward among the people.

In other words, what Cooper is arguing here is that despite how wrong Prop 8 might be, it should still stand.  He has essentially given up on arguing that Prop 8 is actually accomplishing some valid purpose. Instead, he is relying on the “rational basis” test to argue that the state legislative authority allows Prop 8 as some sort of valid exercise because the state might have some sort of “channeling” power towards marriage. (Who exactly they are channeling remains an open question. Because, I’m pretty sure I will not be channeled anywhere.)

He doesn’t bother to claim that this is a good idea, or a just idea. Rather, it simply a “rational basis” to legislate from.

Trouble is that, quite simply, it is not a rational basis. I don’t think I can say it any better than Ted Olson:

So how does preventing same-sex couples from getting married advance the interest or protect the interest of procreation? They are not a threat to us. What is one single bit of evidence if you accept the channeling function if you accept the right that the State of California has the right to do that and I do not this is an individual constitutional right and every Supreme Court decision says it’s the right of the person. It’s not the right of the State of California to channel us into certain activities or in a certain way.

There’s a long way to go folks, but today was a good day.  Even if we lose at the Supreme Court, this case has been a valuable exercise for the nation. Cross-posted from Prop 8 Trial Tracker

As Prop 8 Trial Concludes, Study Shows Risk of Rushing to Ballot

Today, the Proposition 8 trial in San Francisco Federal Court will hear its long-awaited closing arguments – as gay marriage advocates prepare to return to the ballot.  And a new study conducted by the Haas Jr. Foundation looks at pre-election polling data from 33 states that passed anti-gay marriage initiatives.  It concludes (a) we always do worse than what polls say, and (b) voters don’t change their minds about this issue during campaigns.  The lesson, of course, is that we must work harder to move hearts and minds – and that work can’t be done in a short election season.  Sadly, the implications of this study will strike many as discouraging – was all the money, time and energy we spent in California and Maine somehow a waste?  It’s true gay marriage is a sensitive topic that voters develop hard feelings about that can’t be changed overnight.  But the study did not focus on the small sliver of “persuadable” voters in each election who decide the outcome.

The Haas Jr. Foundation hired NYU political scientist Patrick J. Egan to study 167 polls in the 33 states that had a gay marriage ban from 1998-2009 – and compared it with the results on Election Day.  And as we already knew – having painfully experienced this in state after state – the results after votes are counted are worse than what polls had said.  Moreover, as Dr. Egan reported, poll results throughout the campaign were mostly static.

Did people lie?  Yes and no.  Egan’s analysis showed that polls accurately predicted the pro-equality vote – i.e., people who voted “no” on Prop 8 – but that they undercounted people who voted to ban gay marriage.  So if a pre-election poll would show us winning a plurality of 48-45 (which campaigns find encouraging), it would mean that we lost 52-48.  

Respondents didn’t tell pollsters they were going to vote “no” and voted “yes” – the so-called Bradley effect where voters want to give the “politically correct” answer.  What instead happened is that embarrassed voters said they were undecided.  Which is why, said Geoff Kors of Equality California, we should only go to the ballot after polls show a majority who plan to go our way.  “Once people are for equality, we don’t see slippage.”

Voters are also not confused about which position – “yes” or “no” – is pro-gay marriage in ballot campaigns.  In California, the “No on 8” side wasted enormous efforts trying to make sure that San Franciscans knew the right way to vote.  In Maine, the “No on 1” campaign also spent a lot of time educating the base – but my anecdotal experience was that we saw more confusion there.

Egan’s analysis debunks the “confusion” theory because (a) we would have found it less of a factor in more educated and politically motivated states; and (b) if it was a problem at the start of a campaign, polls closer to the election would have gotten more accurate.

So why the discrepancy?  Egan speculated that pollsters screened out “yes” voters more than “no” voters – leading to skewed samples.  I believe that’s valid, because those who oppose gay marriage are less comfortable talking about the issue in general to people.

A second theory, which Egan said was “unlikely,” is that there was a substantial shift in opinion during the final days.  Again, this goes back to the general theme of the study that political campaigns don’t change voters’ opinions on this issue.  But having gone to Maine twice in October 2009, I believe there was a major change during the final week.  We lost the election by six points, but my understanding is we won the early absentees.

At yesterday’s press conference, Egan was asked about Figure 1 from his study – featured here – that showed a visible bump in the final week before an election.  “It’s very small and statistically insignificant,” he said – saying it only accounted for about 1%.

But what the data doesn’t show is who that one-percent shift was.  Without question, same-sex marriage is an issue where the vast majority of voters on each side already made up their minds – and no amount of campaigning would change their opinions.  Elections come down to just the sliver of undecided voters – maybe five percent – who don’t know or think much about the issue.  A 1% shift could be 20% of those people.

After Maine passed Question 1, the Washington DC think tank Third Way did a post-election poll that zeroed in on “movable middle” voters.  They produced a great study that argued we lost because of voters who support civil unions, but had not made the connection on marriage.  Their report offers an excellent guide to “reframing” the issue for this targeted group.

Frank Schubert famously told a gathering they were going to lose Prop 8 – until he and Jeff Flynt decided to bank the whole campaign on fears that your children would have to learn about gay marriage in public schools.  In the final week, “Yes on 1” in Maine shot an ad that endorsed civil unions.  Their right-wing base was nonplussed, but it may have swung the election.

Could a campaign in Maine or California have won marriage equality – if we had done a better job persuading swing voters in the short span of an election season?  The best part of yesterday’s press conference was when Geoff Kors of Equality California explained what happened when gay marriage activists had more time to change hearts and minds.  

For the first several months of 2008 – long before the Prop 8 campaign began in earnest –

EQCA ran a project in Santa Barbara County called Let California Ring.  The goal was to start conversations about marriage outside the pressure of an election – via house parties, canvassing and a TV ad campaign that tapped into peoples’ emotions.  The project did not achieve all of its goals due to inconsistent fundraising, but it laid the groundwork for “No on 8” locally.

Santa Barbara became the only county in Southern California to reject Prop 8.  While the state moved nine points towards equality between Prop 22 in 2000 and Prop 8 in 2008, Santa Barbara County shifted a whopping 24 points.  There is no question Let California Ring played a role, and the work that groups like EQCA and the Courage Campaign (with its regular Camp Courage) is doing now will eventually repeal Prop 8.

I’m just not willing to give up the idea that electoral campaigns matter …

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.  He was a summer intern at Equality California in 2005 when the California legislature passed its first marriage equality bill, and was heavily involved in Maine’s “No on 1” campaign to help make travel arrangements for out-of-state volunteers.

Expect More of the Same in the Prop 8 Closing Argument Tomorrow

I had a bit of time to go over the responses to Judge Walker’s questions, much like some of my fellow Trial Trackers did in the comments to a post with the parties responses to Judge Walker’s questions.

First, let’s get this one out of the way: don’t expect anything new.  By definition, closing arguments are something of a summary of what’s come before.  What you see in closing argument is each side pressing their advantages, and this case is no different.

See more over the flip…

So what are the proponents’ advantages? Well, if you read more than a page of their responses you see what they think is their strong point: rational basis scrutiny. In other words, Pugno and the gang believe that because gays and lesbians have never been considered a “suspect class” under the law, they are the ones defending the strategic ground.  They only need to prove that there was some “rational basis” for the state to enact the legislation, nothing more.

As you go through their responses you will see this as the dominant theme. And that’s reflected in two ways.  First, their rather persistent repetition of the fact that they believe rational basis review applies here. I think I lost count of the number of occasions they brought it up, but I was over two hands on it.  Of course, Judge Walker asks this question to both sides, and the answers are instructive.  While not the most thrilling question on the list, it does go to the heart of the matter.  I offer them here, omitting citations:

Prop 8 Proponents:

Because same-sex marriage is neither “objectively, deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” nor “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” and because Proposition 8 does not classify on the basis of a suspect or quasi-suspect characteristic, Plaintiffs claims are subject to  rational basis review.  Proposition 8 thus “bear[s] a strong presumption of validity,” and  Plaintiffs “have the burden to negative every conceivable basis which might support it.” (Page 31)


Prop. 8 infringes on Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry (as well as their fundamental right to privacy and personal autonomy) and discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and sex.   Because Prop. 8 impairs fundamental rights and discriminates on the basis of suspect classifications,  Proponents bear the burden of proving that Prop. 8 is narrowly tailored to further a compelling state  interest.  In the alternative, if the Court  concludes that strict scrutiny is not appropriate, then Proponents would bear the burden of proving  that Prop. 8 is substantially related to an important state interest because Prop. 8 infringes on  Plaintiffs’ right to marry and their right to privacy and personal autonomy-which are significant  liberty interests-and discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, which are both (at a  minimum) quasi-suspect classifications.  If  the Court concludes that rational basis review applies, then it should examine the interests that  Proponents offer for Prop. 8 to determine whether they are legitimate state interests.  If the  interests are legitimate, then Plaintiffs would be required to prove that Prop. 8 does not in fact  “advance” those interests.

You’ll notice that the Plaintiffs response is much longer, and to be blunt, this is because they offer a complete response.  The Proponents answer only in their optimal case, while the plaintiffs look at all possible scenarios. Much of that completeness is just law school textbook stuff, but it is worth repeating on this site as often as possible.  Especially when it is actually in the filings.

To summarize the plaintiffs position a little bit, what they are saying is that they believe that a) gays and lesbians are/should be a suspect class and that b) the proponents must prove their case accordingly.  Now, I should point out that in In re Marriage Cases, the 2008 decision that made my marriage possible, the California Supreme Court said that sexual orientation is a suspect class under the California Constitution. That doesn’t apply to the federal courts, who are interpreting the federal Constitution, but it is worth noting. However, no federal court has ruled that the federal Constitution does view sexual orientation as a suspect class.  This case seeks to change that. It’s a broadening of the law, but one that is reasonable considering recent jurisprudence.

The plaintiffs also suggest that if strict scrutiny isn’t going to apply, then intermediate should.  This is primarily used on gender cases, but there is sound legal argument on this front as a sort of midway point.  And finally, they point to rational basis, the least favorable test, acknowledging their own burden under that situation.

The bulk of the rest of the proponent responses tries to shoe-horn in as much of their crazy evidence as possible.  They’ve got the discredited Netherlands data in there on page 14. See my post during the trial highlighting the evidence debunking that. Long story short on that: Did marriage rates decline since the Netherlands allowed same-sex marriage? Yes, but at a slower rate than at periods before that.  Thus, if anything, it proves our point, not theirs.

On pages 12-13, they have their wildly generalized, and far from conclusive, evidence showing that we don’t make as good of parents.  Except not so much. Their strongest evidence for that point is a response that doesn’t even look at same gender parenting, rather, it is more accurately viewed in the context of single parenting.  But, on the facts, the proponents/defendants are really grasping at straws.

Inversely, the plaintiffs are chock full of facts. On page 20 of the plaintiffs response, they go over the testimony showing few poor effects on the institution of marriage in jurisdictions where same sex marriage is the law, primarily from the evidence of Drs. Badgett and Cott.  And of course, there are these quotes from the eloquent tongue of the proponents’ star witness: David Blankenhorn:

Indeed, Mr. Blankenhorn himself conceded on cross-examination that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry would “be a victory for the worthy ideas of  tolerance and inclusion” and “a victory for, and another key expansion of, the American idea.”    Mr. Blankenhorn conceded that allowing gay men and lesbians to  marry “would probably reduce the proportion of homosexuals who marry persons of the opposite sex  and, thus, would likely reduce instances of marital unhappiness and divorce” ,  and also “would likely be accompanied by a wide-ranging and potentially valuable national  discussion of marriage’s benefits, status and future.”  

Thus, the questions for the court really are what standard to apply, and how to apply that standard.  If we are on the rational basis test, our burden is considerably higher, but as noted above, the facts the defense offered were paper-thin with more holes than a nice block of Emmentaler cheese.

That being said, there is a way for either side to win this case.  Rational basis standards have been known to allow some weak logic through the gates.  Of course, it is my sincere hope that Judge Walker takes a look at that Swiss cheese case, and sees right through it.  However, I will be eagerly awaiting the argument tomorrow.

Students, Gavin Newsom, and the 2010 CDP Convention

After the preparations had been made, the tally sheets from our phone calls completed, the carpools worked out, and the volunteers scheduled, I headed to Los Angeles with the hope that after the weekend was complete, there would be no question in the minds of the CDP delegates that Gavin Newsom has the grassroots support necessary to win the Lt. Governor’s race against whatever the GOP throws at us in November.

In the weeks prior to the convention, our team of students from all across the state had been talking to delegates, volunteers, and fellow young voters about Mayor Newsom’s candidacy and about his bold, new ideas that will be required to dig California out of our seemingly never ending state of economic misery.

The pitch was not hard to make. Young people are drawn to Newsom’s campaign. We see public higher education becoming unaffordable to more and more Californians. We fear that in five or ten years our state won’t be able to compete in an evolving global economy, and we worry that the living wage jobs that we will need in order to support our families will be harder and harder to find. While we are confident that our state will come to its senses when it comes to Gay Marriage and LGBT rights, we are concerned that the relentless beat of the status quo won’t provide the framework necessary to drastically change the way we look at issues like immigration, the environment, and budget & tax reform. We have watched the forces of regressiveness drag our state (and our futures) under the surface, and we are ready and eager to support Gavin Newsom, who has proven time and time again in San Francisco that tangible change is not only possible, but it is also necessary.

This is why over 100 enthusiastic volunteers showed up to the state Democratic Party convention this weekend in support of Gavin Newsom. If you were in LA, you may have seen us trailing the candidate as he greeted throngs of excited delegates in the hallways, waiting in the back of crowded caucus rooms to welcome him and hear him speak, or waving signs and holding coffees while passing out muffins on a street corner early on Saturday morning.

The high number of young people supporting Gavin Newsom’s campaign for LG is a testament to the appeal of his dynamic candidacy and engaging personality. Young voters are the bellwether of the coming decades of California Politics, and we are ready to not only vote for, but also work to produce real change. We came out in full force for President Obama, we overwhelmingly opposed Props 4 and 8, and we vented our fear and anger over cuts to higher education during protests up and down the state this past year.

Young people have proven over the last two years that we are ready to lead the next wave of progressive politics in this state. We look at Sacramento and see a broken system that needs fixing, quickly. Income inequality is on the rise, unemployment is approaching record highs, and an archaic budget and tax code protects the interests of the most conservative politicians in the state and stifles any hope of reform. At the same time, we turn to San Francisco and see a city with universal healthcare, universal pre-school, paid sick-leave, and the highest minimum wage in the nation, and we are given a reason to have hope for the future. Because of his track record, my generation feels that we share a vision for the future with Gavin Newsom.  Because of this, we are ready to ensure that he has the opportunity to prove himself on a statewide level. If you were at the convention last weekend, you may have caught a glimpse of that.

You can join Students for Gavin Newsom on Facebook: facebook.com/studentsfornewsom

LA Times Poll Shows Majority Support for Marriage Equality

Cross-posted from the Prop8TrialTracker.

In yet another poll on marriage equality, an LA Times poll released yesterday showed that a majority of registered voters support marriage equality:

Registered voters surveyed in the latest poll  said 52% to 40% that “same-sex couples should be allowed to become  legally married in the state of California.”

That’s the latest in a string of surveys that have found similar  results. A PPIC poll released March 25 found respondents  backing gay marriage 50% to 45%.  And a Times/USC poll last November found a 51% to 43%  split on the issue.  As with the previous surveys, the latest Times/USC poll showed a sharp  polarization by political party and ideology, with Democrats and  liberals supporting same-sex marriage by large margins and Republicans  and conservatives opposing it by equally lopsided margins. (LA Times)

Of course, this poll doesn’t mean that we could win a ballot fight. As we learned in 2008, these polls have a bias of about 3-5 points in favor of marriage equality. It seems many people don’t want to admit to a questioner that they are bigoted, but are cool with doing so once they step in to a voting booth.  Before I would feel comfortable, I’d like to see that number at closer to 58 or 59 percent for an extended period of time.  I think that would allow us a comfortable victory.

But that being said, things worth having are rarely won with comfortable victories. When we go back to the ballot in 2012, we will have to work our butts off. The Prop 8 trial very well may not be concluded by November 2012. And frankly, at some point we are going to have to win at the ballot box to show that America is well and truly changing. Until then, all we have is the general notion of change.

I was going to write something about all the change that will be, but a commenter, Nancy, did so at the LA Times quite well. Rather than making the point myself, I thought I would reproduce the comment here.  Most of the comments at these newspaper sites tend to be viscous personal attacks, homophobic slurs, and all sorts of smears. Yet, that’s not always the case. Without further introduction, Check out Nancy over the flip.

I guess I just don’t get it. I am in a happy, heterosexual relationship  that is leading to marriage. I am religious – Babtist in my upbringing,  in fact. Yet I simply cannot figure out how and why the marriage of a  gay couple would threaten my partner and me in any way. I know of no  divorces that were caused by some gay couple somewhere.

The  arguments against gay marriage are arbitrary and completely irrational.  It’s time to get on to far more important issues, like education, the  economy and the environment. I believe the polls and seriously doubt  that it’s some sort of liberal plot to convert everyone to gayness. Come  on, folks, get a grip.

An ironic story – someone very close to  me who is against gay marriage is in a mixed-race relationship. It  wasn’t that long ago that her partner, a black man, would have been  lynched for being with a white woman. The message: we who believe in  equal rights shall overcome. And there’s a lot of hypocrisy in this  whole issue.

Hang in there, my gay friends. We shall indeed  overcome.

Sen. Ashburn’s Glass Closet Door Shatters

That Sen. Roy Ashburn was a closet case was one of the worst kept secrets around Sacramento.  He would periodically appear in a gay bar, trying to be as discreet as a state senator can be in Sacramento.  He’s not exactly a rock star or anything, but in a city built around state government, he’s pretty recognizable.

And so, on 2 occasions, somebody sent me an email saying that they had seen him at a gay bar. It had become more common over the last few years, as he was heading for his term limit and had no logical place to continue his political career. And, with his vote in support of a few minor tax increases in the California budget dispute last year, his chances of winning a Republican primary for dog catcher were also rapidly decreasing.  Apparently, he became sloppy in his closet, either because he didn’t care anymore or because he thought he would never be caught. But, I’m no Mike Rogers, and I’ve never been all that great at the CYA work that’s necessary if you are going to start publishing that kind of stuff.

But, one sure way to get your name in lights? Get busted for DUI. And to make sure it is really exciting, bring along a guy that you picked up at the gay bar:

Sources tell CBS13 a state senator from Southern California was arrested for allegedly driving drunk after leaving Faces, a gay nightclub in midtown Sacramento, early Wednesday morning.

The California Highway Patrol pulled over Senator Roy Ashburn at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday after an officer noticed a black Chevy Tahoe swerving at 13th and L Streets.

When the officer stopped the state-issued vehicle, the driver identified himself as Senator Ashburn. He was arrested without incident and charged with two misdemeanors: driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level higher than .08% or higher.

A male passenger, who was not identified as a lawmaker, was also in the car but was not detained. (CBS13)

Ashburn was quickly released (you can get the records by searching for Ashburn here), and probably thought he would just get to make the standard apologies.

I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment. I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did. I am also truly sorry for the impact this incident will have on those who support and trust me – my family, my constituents, my friends, and my colleagues in the Senate.

Of course, this was before the part about the gay club came out in the media. I guess you can now read the statement in a slightly different light.

If people choose to live in the closet, it’s their own poor choice. It will eventually drive them to do stupid things (like a DUI), and act like a jerk.  But Ashburn is a slightly different case.  Back when he still had campaigns to think about, he was something of an anti-marriage crusader:

In better days Ashburn, a fierce opponent of gay rights, was fighting marriage equality and organizing anti-gay marriage rallies as part of his “Traditional Family Values” campaign. (TalkingPointsMemo)

In fact, Ashburn’s efforts weren’t only focused on marriage equality. His little coalition actually wanted to ban domestic partnerships.  The effort never really got anywhere; it wasn’t until In re Marriage Cases, the case that gave California marriage equality, became more of a threat that the move to ban marriage again really gained steam.

But Ashburn was there. Campaigning against gay rights in the day light while cruising for gay men after hours.  You could make a lot of excuses for Ashburn, he was doing what you have to do to get elected in Bakersfield, or some other such nonsense, but he went out of his way to attack gay rights.  And, that is often the case for these closet cases.  They want to draw attention away from themselves, and so they go as far away politically as you can get from the LGBT community.  They are scared of their own shadows.

Ultimately, it takes a little something extra to really go out on the limb  against gay rights like Ashburn does. Yeah, some of these people trace it back to their deeply held faith views, but there are so many issues to take up from the Bible.  The extreme poverty across the world would seem to be a far bigger issue, with far more and far more direct advice from the Bible. Yet, these people choose to focus on one misinterpreted section of Leviticus amongst a whole volume.  In a sea of advice, commandments, and admonishments, they focus on one unclear passage.  To spend so much time on one issue, there has to be something else to it than just one passage in the Bible.

The fight against homophobia won’t end anytime soon, but at least we can call it for what it is. Recognize those who are hypocritical, and stand up for our own rights.  The fight will continue. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr, famously said,  the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.