Human Rights

Schwarzenegger Backs Gay Rights

California's governor has taken a humane and reasonable stance on gay marriage. John McCain should pay attention.
My nominee for Best Ex-Actor in a Very Supportive Role: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a few simple sentences, the muscular Republican governor of California did some heroically heavy lifting for all Americans who believe in equal marriage rights for those of us who're gay.

Asked at the gay Log Cabin Republicans' recent national convention whether he would join them in opposing a proposed California ballot initiative that would prohibit gay couples there from achieving marriage equality, Schwarzenegger began, "First of all, I think that (such a ban) would never happen in California because I think California people are much further along on that issue."

Then, as every heart in the room skipped a beat, he delivered some of the most important lines of his career: "And, No. 2, I will always be there to fight against that -- because it should never happen."

The audience leapt to its feet and gave the governor of the nation's most influential state a standing ovation.

Schwarzenegger's Golden State is approaching a historic crossroads: California's Supreme Court, which has a tradition of gay-friendly rulings, will rule on marriage by early June.

If the court sides with fairness, it could immediately open marriage to gay couples or encourage the legislature to do so. Lawmakers have twice passed such legislation, vetoed by Schwarzenegger, who wants the court to weigh in. (He has signed more than 20 gay-rights bills.)

If gigantic, trendsetting California leaps ahead, becoming the second state (after Massachusetts) to allow gay marriage, foes will try to roll back that advance. Even if the court hands down a disappointment, the anti-marriage initiative will likely go to voters this fall.

That's why it's tremendously important that the popular governor is saying you don't have to be a liberal or a Democrat or a young person to oppose taking California backward.

And Californians aren't the only ones who should listen. So should soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee John McCain, his pal.

If California's court rules in gay couples' favor, McCain will stand at his own crossroads: Will he react by choosing the tired old divisive path taken by recent Republican presidential nominees? Or, will he wisely try to make the Republican Party more appealing to moderates ready to move forward by modeling himself after the Ronald Reagan of 30 years ago?

McCain unsuccessfully lobbied for an anti-gay amendment to Arizona's Constitution. Yet he opposes amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage unless courts strike down the federal law saying no state has to recognize another's gay marriages and that gay married couples don't get federal spousal benefits and protections.

McCain needs to know that Schwarzenegger's decision to oppose an anti-gay state initiative puts him in good company with another Ex-Actor in a Very Supportive Role: In 1978, Ronald Reagan, then a former California governor with White House ambitions, torpedoed the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay or gay-friendly teachers.

Advised to duck it, Reagan is credited with sinking the hateful initiative, which lost by 1 million votes.

John McCain is auditioning for the part of a lifetime. Let's hope he takes his cues from Schwarzenegger and Reagan when they led by gay-friendly example.

Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues. To find out more about Deb Price and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018