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Voluntary pledge to refuse anti-gay campaign rhetoric moves to governor's desk

From the Office of Assemblyman Leland Yee

August 22, 2006

SACRAMENTO - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) has a second chance to sign a bill that seeks to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the voluntary pledge that candidates may sign prior to entering a political campaign. On a 45-20 vote (1:30 PM), the State Assembly Monday approved AB 1207 on concurrence.

AB 1207, Speaker pro Tem Leland Yee's (D-San Francisco/Daly City) second attempt in two years to pass such legislation, is designed to end discrimination against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community during campaigns. AB 866, identical legislation authored by Yee last year, was vetoed by the Governor.

"The Governor now has a second chance to do the right thing and affirmatively declare that it is wrong to defile the honor of the democratic process with anti-gay rhetoric that has nothing to do with debate, values or issues," said Yee. "As he has done on many issues this year, I urge the Governor to join Democrats and put an end to discriminatory campaign tactics by signing AB 1207 into law."

"Seeing the anti-gay rhetoric that many LGBT candidates face almost prevented me from pursuing public office," said Gretchen Bender, a recently elected member of the Sacramento Board of Education.

"Fortunately, my family did not have to live through the turmoil that many other LGBT candidates contend with during campaigns. AB 1207 will make sure all candidates stick to the issues and that votes are cast on qualifications, not sexual orientation."

"We applaud Assemblymember Yee for his leadership and persistence on this issue," said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, the bill's sponsor. "The legislature has now twice over affirmed its commitment to campaigns that are fair, just and focused on the issues rather than appeals to prejudice about any group of people. It's time for the governor to sign this bill."

Specifically, the AB 1207 prohibits the use of any negative appeal based on prejudice of sexual orientation or gender identity by candidates or campaign committees who sign the voluntary pledge provided for in the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

Currently, existing law establishes a Code of Fair Campaign Practices to which a candidate may voluntarily subscribe and provides a pledge by which the candidate declares that he or she will not use or permit any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical health status, or age. This Code of Fair Campaign Practices and a copy of the Elections Code provisions are required to be provided to candidates by the Registrar of Voters at the time of a declaration of candidacy, nomination papers, or any other paper evidencing an intention to be a candidate for public office are issued.

"I can not, and will not, stand idle while my friends in the gay community continue to receive inferior treatment and unequal rights," said Yee. "Gay-bating and playing politics with civil rights, justice, and equality is not only unethical, it is potentially dangerous to those we seek to protect in this legislation."

Negative campaign tactics are directly connected to violence against gay and lesbian individuals. Incidents of violence against LGBT people have peaked in national elections years, such as during the 2004 presidential campaign, in which lesbian and gay issues played an unprecedented role at both the national and local levels. In 2003, when San Francisco became ground zero in the struggle over same-sex marriage rights, incidents of violence rose over 14 percent in the city.

In 1996, then Assemblymember Shelia Kuehl introduced nearly identical legislation (AB 2283), which failed in its first hearing on a 3-4 partisan vote. The Governor has until September 30 to sign or veto AB 1207.




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