Many voters in Palm Springs’ sizeable lesbian and gay community are surprised, and even angered, by the political endorsement list that was emailed this week from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization.
People are upset not by what is on the list, but by what isn’t.
The HRC has endorsed Congressional candidates up-and-down the state, but has decided not to endorse either candidate in our local race for Congress, which features Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack and Democratic challenger Dr. Raul Ruiz.
This non-endorsement comes despite Ruiz repeatedly expressing his support for same-sex marriage, and Bono Mack refusing to take a position.
Greg Rodriguez, a prominent Democratic political consultant in Palm Springs, is typical of many who have expressed their anger at HRC in social gatherings and on Facebook:
“I don’t understand it,” Rodriquez says, “The rationale is they (HRC) want to endorse in races that are viable where there’s a chance they can win. But the viability has been there for this guy (Ruiz) for a couple months.”
And Rodriguez echoes a sentiment that others have been posting on social media sites: “I’ve decided I’m taking the HRC sticker off my car and decided I’m not going to donate to them.”
Similar comments come from David Sanchez, the recently retired head of the powerful California Teachers Association, whose 350,000 members are the top campaign contributor in the state. Sanchez and his partner now live full-time in Rancho Mirage.
Sanchez says, “Absolutely it will affect me considering giving them money in the future. And I’m going to encourage all my friends who have been supporters of Dr. Ruiz to give serious thought to whether they support HRC.”
At the Human Rights Campaign, spokesman Fred Sainz would only say, “We continue to monitor the race and we’ll continue through election day to see how the race continues to develop.”
But the real reason for HRC’s non-endorsement may be because of the group’s past relationship with Mary Bono Mack, whom they once endorsed because of her support for previous gay rights bills.
A source with knowledge of the process says, “What message does it send to Republicans who support LGBT people most of the time if HRC merely tosses them overboard if something better comes along?”
“She (Mary Bono Mack) falls into that category,” the source adds, saying, “Her record is far from perfect but it is in the 99 percentile where Republicans are concerned, and our movement is not going to succeed without Republicans.”
Still, HRC did take a bolder stand two years ago when it endorsed openly-gay Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet over Bono Mack.
Bono Mack’s history on gay rights is checkered.
She voted to keep the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but then switched and voted twice to repeal it. She also voted against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.
But gay marriage — the issue of the day — is another story.
At an October 12th debate sponsored by The Desert Sun and KMIR TV, reporter Erica Felci again tried to get Bono Mack to take a position on same-sex marriage, asking, “After all these years, don’t you think Coachella Valley residents deserve to know where you stand on the issue?”
Bono Mack responded by noting all the pro-gay votes she has cast, adding, “My now transgendered stepson, Chaz Bono, we have a very close, wonderful, loving relationship. It is clear that I have a big heart and I don’t have a bigoted bone in my body.”
But on gay marriage, a testy Bono Mack said to reporter Felci, “You and The Desert Sun two years ago tried to pigeonhole me into taking a position on this state issue… it is not a federal issue (that is) up to me to decide.”
(In fact, many analysts say gay marriage is, indeed, a federal issue now that it is in the federal courts, and because of the implications on LGBT couples’ federal benefits like Social Security and tax deductions.)
But Bono Mack’s non-position is not as surprising to local gays and lesbians as the HRC’s non-endorsement in the race. After all, HRC’s Palm Springs membership is among the largest in the country, along with its financial donations to match. ###