Davis Looks to Gay Issue in Resisting Recall Vote
Byline: James G. Lakely, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
California Gov. Gray Davis' pledge to sign a bill giving homosexual couples nearly all traditional marriage rights is seen by many as an attempt to cobble together a coalition of liberal voters to fend off the recall effort.
The California state Senate narrowly passed the bill Thursday, which contradicts Proposition 22, the Protection of Marriage Initiative, that was approved in 2000 with 61 percent of the vote.
"It's hypocritical for Democrat politicians to vote against democracy by rejecting the people's vote on marriage," said Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families.
"The 4.6 million Californians who voted to preserve and protect marriage have another reason to recall Gray Davis if he signs [this bill]. This will come back to haunt Davis at the ballot box."
Last week, Mr. Davis broke his long-standing policy of not announcing where he stood on prospective bills until they crossed his desk by coming out in favor of the bill that its opponents consider "gay marriage by another name."
If the bill passes the California Assembly - which political observers in the state think could happen as early as next week - it would put California close to the standards of Vermont, which is the only state that recognizes the "civil unions" of homosexuals.
Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles, a lesbian who raised a son with her domestic partner, called the bill "a massive building block" that gives homosexual rights activists "maybe 90 percent" of what they want on this issue.
The bill would allow domestic partners to ask for child support and alimony and the ability to make funeral arrangements for a partner.
Supporting the bill is an opportunity for Mr. Davis to garner the support of California's liberal Democrats, said Jack Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California.
"He's never been a friend of California liberals," Mr. Pitney said, because of his reluctance to champion their causes. But he needs more than half of California electorate to vote "no" on the recall question Oct. 7, and is reaching out to the Democratic Party's base to survive.
"Right now, he's looking for friends wherever he can find them," Mr. Pitney said.
Earlier in the year, Davis spokesmen hinted that the governor couldn't commit to the idea of a domestic-partner bill. His sudden change of heart is not a coincidence, said California Democratic political strategist Darry Sragow.
"There's no question that the way that Gray Davis beats the recall is to shore up his political base," Mr. Sragow said. "When this all started, a third of Democrats said they'd vote for the recall and he has to change that number."