Fletcher Supporters Send Out Mailer Slamming Filner on DOMA; Dems for Equality Demand RepudiationOnline Only, Top Highlights, Breaking News Friday, June 1st, 2012
In a political mailer emblazoned with the words, “If you hate DOMA, blame Filner,” a locally-based lobbying group for the liquor store industry is pointing an accusatory finger at Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) as being responsible for the existence of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), part of which, coincidentally today was found unconstitutional by a federal judge.
“I’ve spent my career fighting for equal rights for all Americans,” Filner said in response to the mailer. “Whoever created this mailer hasn’t checked my record dating back to the early civil rights movement in America. I worked for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; for ENDA, and for honoring Harvey Milk – not only with a street name, but with a postage stamp; and the naming of a Navy ship.”
ENDA is the Employment Non-discrimination Act, which would protect LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination, but which has not been passed into law. DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman. DOMA further prohibits the federal government from recognizing any marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships between same-sex couples.
As a candidate for San Diego mayor Congressman Filner’s name appears on the June 5 primary election ballot, along with three other major candidates, including District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a Republican and out lesbian; City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican and openly gay man; and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who left the Republican Party shortly after the local GOP endorsed DeMaio for mayor.
The Neighborhood Market Association (NMA) has endorsed Fletcher and is responsible for sponsoring the mailer in question, which slams Congressman Filner for his vote against marriage equality in the form of a “yes” vote on the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. The mailer reports a political action committee called Californians for Small Business as the party who paid for its distribution.
NMA’s CEO, Mark Arabo, stands by his group’s mailer. Arabo has contributed $20,000 to Obama’s reelection campaign which makes his mailer all the more confusing. In fact, Arabo doubled down on the mailer’s intent to cast doubt about Bob Filner in the minds marriage equality proponents.
“This is an informative piece to let the community know that voting records of all candidates must be looked at,” Arabo told LGBT Weekly. “Every candidate has been attacked on their record and our job is to inform the people of the City of San Diego so they can make an informed decision.”
Arabo says his group seeks only to forward the cause of supporting small business. But it’s not clear how Filner’s vote for DOMA 16 years ago affects small businesses in San Diego today. Asked if NMA’s opposition to the idea of Bob Filner as mayor of San Diego has anything to do with his support for a ban on bottles on beaches, Arabo objected strongly to that notion.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “We were not aware he is a supporter of the ban on bottles. Our issue is small business across the board. We have never been a one issue association and have had many other issues other than the ban on the beach. So to put the association in a box that way is unfair and not factual.”
The Fletcher campaign said it was surprised by the mailer and did not approve of its message.
“While Bob Filner’s original rationale for supporting DOMA is open to criticism, his subsequent opposition to it is not,” said a spokeswoman for the campaign.
One of the nation’s largest regional LGBT political organizations, San Diego Democrats for Equality, would like to see Nathan Fletcher go further by demanding a retraction from the sender of the mailer depicting Bob Filner hanging his head in shame. It’s not yet clear if Fletcher will answer the group’s call, as the candidate was traveling home from Sacramento at the time this story was being written, and was not reachable for direct comment.
“I think they should demand a retraction, even though there’s no way to take back something that’s already been mailed,” said Doug Case, president of Democrats for Equality. “Besides, the damage has been done; we’re only a few days out from the election.”
Case cited Filner’s “100-percent” rating from the nation’s largest, most influential LGBT–equality lobbying organization, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which is based in Washington, D.C., as “proof” of his support for the LGBT community.
“It’s despicable,” Case told San Diego LGBT Weekly. “Especially in light of Bob’s long history as one of the strongest supporters of civil rights for all Americans, going back to the time he spent in jail in the South as a Freedom Ride protester against segregation and discrimination against African Americans.”
Indeed, Filner spent three months in a Jackson, Miss. jail when he was 19 for his role in protests against segregation in the South. San Diego Democrats for Equality has endorsed Filner for mayor.
While Nathan Fletcher’s record on LGBT issues has been largely positive, it has multiple blemishes, as opposed to Bob Filner’s singular anti-equality vote. Equality California (EQCA) gives the Fletcher a “92-percent” rating for his support of LGBT equality.
In 2011, Fletcher opposed SB 747, whose purpose, according to EQCA, was to “improve the education of health care personnel regarding best practices for improving care provided to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients.”
Fletcher also voted against designating May 22, the birthday of LGBT–rights icon Harvey Milk, a statewide holiday.
“Everybody is responsible for their own records,” Filner said. “He did not vote on the Assembly resolution (SB 572) to oppose Proposition 8; he voted ‘no’ to establish a Harvey Milk Day in California; (and) he opposed recognition for out-of-state same-sex marriages.”
Filner added that he hoped Nathan Fletcher had “… had a change of heart as I have had on DOMA.”
Blemishes notwithstanding, Fletcher has won the support of many in the gay community, a fact evidenced by large turnouts at LGBT-focused campaign events such as a recent fundraiser at Babycakes in Hillcrest. For some in the community, Fletcher earned a “second look” after his famous floor speech during which he bucked the Republican Party line on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
It bears repeating that LGBT Weekly recently conducted a long-form Q&A with Assemblyman Fletcher as part of a series of interviews intended to include all four major candidates for mayor (one candidate, Carl DeMaio, chose not to be interviewed). We asked the assemblyman if he would continue Mayor Jerry Sanders’ role as an active advocate for marriage equality, who is also a sitting chief executive of a major American city.
“Yes,” he said. “When an issue’s important, you have to be willing to take a stand and speak out for it. When I gave the floor speech on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, some people were very upset. But set that aside. There was an entire group of people who said, ‘Hey, I’ve never thought about it. I’ve always been opposed to it. I listened to what you said and I thought about it; and you know what? You’re right.’”
Some political analysts have said Bob Filner might have been defeated in 1996, the year Republicans wrenched control of the House of Representatives from Democrats, (who at the time had firmly gripped the reigns of leadership in the “People’s House” for more than 35 years) if he had voted against DOMA.
Although Filner has never publicly said that his decision was about political survival, he told LGBT Weekly that “political realities be damned,” if he had the chance to recast that vote, things would be different this time.
“It is the single vote I most regret in my congressional career,” Filner said. “In the future, I would vote against it in any circumstance.”
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