Twelve Gen-X Republicans Who Will Have Some Explaining To Do Some Day Soon

Dirty_DozenThe worst day of my six years in the legislature was also the last day of my last session: June 27, 2008.

This was the day that the Senate passed SCR 1042, which referred to the ballot a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The change was unnecessary and strictly political. Arizona law already forbade such marriages, so the referendum ultimately had little practical effect other than to poison the public dialogue to advance the agenda of some sick and cynical people.

I could go on for a while about the ugliness that led up to 1042’s passage, like the promises that leadership and rank-and-file Republicans broke with the legislation’s opponents so that the bill could advance, the bizarre glee of the measure’s supporters (this did not include lobbyist Cathi Herrod, who continually bore her permanently sour countenance as she watched from her command post in the gallery), and the overall bigotry behind the whole thing. Suffice it to say, supporters of the bill went through a lot of trouble to get this passed. One could admire the parliamentary skill at play here if only it was about something useful like fixing potholes or building a hospital.

The bill got the votes of every single Republican present save two: Representatives Jennifer Burns and Pete Hershberger, both of Tucson. Burns had already announced that she was not running for reelection. Hershberger went on to lose a Republican Senate primary to the famously grumpy Al Melvin. If this issue was a factor, it was only one of many as Melvin had beaten another well-regarded moderate Republican in a primary for the same seat 2 years before. Based on my subsequent conversations with him, I think I can safely say that Pete has few if any regrets about any of this.

It would be easy to dismiss the passage of this as the act of a bunch of frightened old people who were intimidated by a modern world that they no longer understood were it not for the fact that twelve legislators under the age of 40, all Republicans, three in the Senate and nine in the House, enough to change the final outcome, were among those who voted for this. In other words, people who should have had an eye to the future rather than the past supported this even though they knew better.

At the time, I remember saying that the folks under 40 who voted for 1042 were all going to live to feel foolish about their vote. Society was moving in the opposite direction, and the future would not look kindly upon those who stood in the way of progress. We were people who all grew up around folks of our parents and grandparents’ generation who lived through the days of legal segregation. We would hear the lame excuses of older people who told us that while they all knew that the way that African-Americans were treated was wrong, they just had to go along with it in the name of expedience. As usual, evil triumphed because so many ostensibly good people found excuses to do nothing. The fact that the older generation was still (and is still) making excuses many years later indicates that they were embarrassed by their part in allowing it to continue.

Despite the court decision, the debate over same sex-marriage in Arizona is by no means over. Opponents have made it clear that they will continue to fight, but they are rapidly looking more like the Japanese holdouts who were still waging war from caves in the Marianas years after the surrender. It is clear where the issue is going, and it is happening much faster than even the most hopeful among us ever thought it would.

This was a very different issue than most of what we dealt with in the legislature. Unlike our arguments about taxation or whatever, this was one where, as what happened with SB1070 two years later, the legislature singled out one constituency for stigmatization, as the folks to blame for the problems the rest of us were having. They targeted our fellow human beings for crass, cynical and craven reasons. They all knew exactly what they were doing.

This is the part where someone says “Hey Tom, that was 6 years ago. Why still hold a grudge?” The reason is simple. I have seen nothing in the intervening time that shows that any of these folks have regret over their vote in 2008. Based on the fact that three of these individuals: Senators Adam Driggs, Rick Murphy and Michele Reagan, recently voted for the clearly anti-gay SB1062, it is safe to say that they still think that political considerations trump the dignity of our neighbors. So far, none of these individuals has had a George Wallace moment where they admit that they were wrong.

Now that it is clear that they are on the wrong side of history, they all better start thinking up what lame excuses they are going to be making. Their grand-children’s generation is sure to ask questions.

Why Resolve Anything Quietly When Sensational Rhetoric Gets You on The Teevee?

Senator Carl Hayden famously said that elected officials were either show horses or work horses. If you want to get your name in the papers, you should be a show horse. If you wanted to actually get things done, you should be a work horse instead.

Because of the traumatic events of the past week, a few stories have slipped past our attention. In the case of one story, this was the way it should have been all along.

This week, scandal-plagued Republican Attorney General Tom Horne called for a sit-down with city attorneys from across the state to discuss the limits of what local governments could do with regard to civil unions. This is in response to the Bisbee Crisis. In fairness, even folks in Bisbee have admitted that their sweeping ordinance may have gone a bit too far and they are revisiting some of its more problematic provisions.

Under normal circumstances, Horne would deserve praise for his efforts to resolve this question amicably. However, this came only after he linked hands with Cathi Herrod of the professionally prudish right-wing Center for Arizona Policy and went to the press with a pointed threat to sue the former Queen of the Copper Camps. Rather than finding a solution, Herrod and Horne’s rhetoric seemed calculated to intimidate and generally foment ill feeling across the state. At the same time, it got Horne’s face on television and helped assure a critical constituency of frightened bigots that the troubled Attorney General was on their side.

Now that he got what he wanted and the life-cycle of the controversy has run its course, Horne has decided to actually do his job and govern. In the process, he has elevated Cathi Herrod and given some of our state’s haters fifteen minutes of fame, but the potential long-term damage this could do is not his concern. Governing does not get your name in the paper, but strident rhetoric does, and this is all that really matters.

This is pretty much all one needs to know about Horne’s entire career.

Tom Horne: Coward

The Arizona Republic reports that scandal-plagued Republican Attorney General Tom Horne turned down a chance for a televised debate against once-and-future Democratic AG candidate Felecia Rotellini regarding his fit of rage over Bisbee’s civil unions ordinance. He said that he “didn’t feel comfortable appearing with Felecia.”

Rotellini is probably too gracious and professional to outright call Tom Horne for what he is. For her benefit, I present the eloquence of Tombstone Epitaph editor Pat Hamilton when the tough-talking Sam Purdy, a rival editor, backed out of a duel arising from a political dispute in 1882:

… your life has been a lie…you are a cur by nature, a traitor by heart and a scoundrel by instinct. I write ‘coward’ across your brow so clearly and legibly that every man and woman in Cochise County can read the brand of your infamy.


Well, Who Needs Tourism Anyway? Right Jan?

Edwin Leslie, an adviser to Jan Brewer on tourism issues, has quit over her latest crusade against gay and lesbian state employees.

With limited funding of state parks, underfunding of promotion of our state, hostile rhetoric towards Hispanics from our state’s leaders and even closed signs at rest stops for a time, the question is why it took the guy so long to figure out that la Cervecera and company have been bad for attracting visitors to our state.


I heard a bit on the local NPR station that Ron Barber will be voting against the Obamacare repeal. I’m glad to hear he’s not running away from it.

I still don’t get the over-caution from him. The district he’s running in now is even more Democratic than the one he skunked Jesse Kelly in. I’m still perplexed by the Eric Holder vote and the explanation that by half voting for what he’s acknowledging is a partisan witch hunt he’s striking a blow for civility is a bit much. And I don’t think the “split the baby” stand will win over any Republican or independent that’s on the fence about the guy.

If it was some way to make sure that the NRA doesn’t give him a bad rating, good luck with that. I don’t think they are in the habit of giving endorsements to high profile gunshot victims. The existence of people like Barber tend to ruin their thesis.

Anyhow, I like Ron a lot, I’ve just been getting frustrated with a couple of his votes. His willingness to be on the right side on the ACA is reassuring.

Hoping for a Few Activist Judges

La Cervecera announced that she will not be calling the legislature into special session. For those that don’t remember (actually, it was only the last post), the governor was going to call a special session to deal with a citizens’ initiative to give Arizona a “jungle primary.”

I don’t pretend to know why the session got called off, but something makes me think it was not a sudden love of direct democracy and it’s attendant urge to leave things like this up to the voters. More likely, it had something to do with Senate leadership worrying that they would not have the members for a quorum. Also, the governor and the legislature were still in disagreement over what would be discussed: the governor’s proposed tinkering or the “Operation: Voter Mindfreak” proposed by folks like Frank Antenori.

(Appologies to Robert Shea, Robert Anton Wilson, Criss Angel and Geoff Tate for that one)

That’s okay, la Cervecera has found a new crusade. She’s asking the US Supreme Court to review a decision that allows state employees to place same sex partners on their health insurance.

Wow, it’s a two-fer. Nuestra gobernadora is taking a swing at two of the Republicans favorite piñatas: homosexuals and state employees. She’s doing it and she ain’t even up for re-election.

Glad to see her priorities are straight…so to speak.

Biden on Marriage Equality

Joe Biden came out for marriage equality this morning. On the TV even.

Below is the press release from Catholics for Equality:

WASHINGTON – Catholics for Equality, the country’s largest national political organization of pro-LGBT equality Catholics, issued the following statement in response to Vice President Joseph Biden’s announcement this morning on Meet the Press that he supports civil marriage equality:

Catholics for Equality is proud of our Catholic brother, Vice President Joe Biden, for coming out in support for civil marriage equality on Meet The Press this morning.

Again, we see pro-equality Catholics leading the fight for full legal equality for our LGBT people in America.

Vice President Biden joins Catholic leaders Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Governor John Baldacci of Maine, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois and Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire in advancing civil marriage equality in America

American Catholics understand the connection between Catholic social justice teaching and full legal equality for LGBT people – including the right to civil marriage. American Catholic leaders like Vice President Biden also understand that it is the government’s duty to offer civil/legal marriage licenses to same-gender couples in our city halls, while protecting our Church’s liberty to conduct religious/sacrmental marriages in accordance with our faith.

Ameirican Catholics understand this distinction. According to a national poll, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, when clearly asked support for civil marriage, “like you get at city hall,” 71% of American Catholics said “yes,” we support civil marriage equality.

And They Wonder Why…

Audience members at the Republican debate boo a gay soldier:

The question was directed to Rick Santorum, who didn’t address the booing at all. Not one candidate on the stage said a word about the booing; none could even give the rote political line about thanking him for his service.

Of course, after the debate, they all told whatever reporters they could find that the reaction was inappropriate. Still, none could confront the hate when it was right in front of them. Those are voters they might need, after all.

Here is Gary Johnson after the debate:

This is not the Republican Party that I belong to.

Well, it seems to be sometimes, doesn’t it?