All I want for Christmas is a new Congress …Top Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Commentary: Politically Aware
Some birthdays, when I was growing up, I would beg for a present that was a tad too expensive. On occasions when I received that too-dear birthday gift, my mother would declare it part of that year’s Christmas bounty. Unfortunately, early Christmas presents just didn’t satisfy once yuletide arrived – even if rewrapped in paper gleaming with the word “Noel” and put under the tree. Inevitably, come December, I wanted something new.
The San Diego mayoral race reminds me of one of those premature presents. Knowing six months before the primary that the winner will be a supporter of marriage equality is an incredible gift made possible by decades of effort and given to us by hard-working activists. Nevertheless, that shiny new cadeau will lose some of its luster, and will probably even seem old by June, and certainly will seem so by November. In fact, I’m already asking my political secret Santa for a shiny-new something else. I want a more tolerant congressional delegation for Christmas. Please, Santa?
Since 2006, San Diego County’s U.S. representatives have voted the same way on nearly every LGBT issue: Reps. Susan Davis (D) and Bob Filner (D) in favor; Reps. Duncan Hunter (R), Darrel Issa (R) and Brian Bilbray (R) against. Considering Bilbray’s and Hunter’s predecessors, the 2:3 ratio goes back almost a decade.
The decennial redistricting process has given the LGBT community a chance to flip that ratio. Four of the chairs really haven’t changed: Davis, Issa and Hunter should be able to defend their modified districts, and the 51st District, which Filner is leaving to run for mayor, remains predominantly Democratic and Latino.
The hot seat belongs to Rep. Bilbray, who currently represents California’s 50th U.S. Congressional District. Redistricting moved Bilbray’s home into the new 49th District. Rather than taking on Issa, Bilbray is planning to run in the new 52nd District. It includes parts of his old district, but also added voters from the Democratic Party and communities of color from regions to the south and east. Redistricting has made the numbers a little confusing, so just remember one: Zero.
Zero was Rep. Bilbray’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) scorecard for the 111th Congress (January 2009 to January 2011). Zero was also his score for the 110th Congress. And the 109th. In fact, Bilbray hasn’t supported a single piece of pro-LGBT legislation since returning to Congress in 2006, having lost to Rep. Susan Davis six years earlier. He doesn’t even seem to take LGBT issues seriously, ducking out of his office when members of HRC San Diego visited to drop off literature and request a meeting.
Zero. There’s nowhere to go but up. Even Rep. Bilbray’s predecessor, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, and his colleague, Rep. Darryl Issa, have made it into the teens. But we can do so much better. Running on the tolerant side of Bilbray are former California Assemblymember Lori Saldaña and former San Diego City Council President Scott Peters.
From 2004 to 2010, Saldaña represented the 76th District, which included much of the gayborhood and parts of the new 52nd District. On Equality California’s (EQCA) scorecard for state legislation, Saldaña scored 100 percent. Marriage equality? Check. Insurance non-discrimination? Check. Domestic partnership death benefits? Fair. Campaign practices, repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Check, check, check. An impressive record, but that’s not even the full list for one year; 2005. Rep. Saldaña kept up her 100 percent rating for six years, until she termed out of the assembly.
Peters, while representing Council District 1, supported San Diego’s amicus brief to the California Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality, and opposed Proposition 8. He also supports employment non-discrimination and serves on the board of The San Diego LGBT Center. Both Peters and Saldaña have been endorsed by LGBT and allied elected officials at the state and local level.
As LGBT San Diegans we enjoy a long list of protections including domestic partnerships, a state ENDA and a city equal benefits ordinance. We may not have marriage equality, but we’ll soon elect another mayor who supports it. Other LGBT Americans aren’t so lucky. In 34 states, they can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. 31 states won’t recognize their relationships. That may not change without federal legislation, which will require a fair minded U.S. Congress. Defeating Bilbray in the new 52nd District is our best chance to increase the tolerance of San Diego’s congressional delegation and help the nationwide LGBT community.
As December filing deadlines approach, by all means support the mayoral candidate who best advocates your local views. But it is also the holiday season, so consider those less fortunate than yourself. Think about our LGBT brothers and sisters who lack the protections we enjoy in San Diego. If you can, help give District 52, and thus San Diego County, representation that advocates for the rights of all LGBT Americans. Your generosity should keep you warm on these cold December nights. If it doesn’t, think of the poor “Yes on 8” voters in San Diego, who have no mayoral candidate that shares their intolerance, and I guarantee you’ll be nice and warm.
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