CommunityPam's House Blend

Sen. Boxer: Her Evolving Position On Marriage Equality, And On Her Campaign To Be Reelected

We had a blender (QueerInSoCal) comment in a recent diary about how he wouldn’t be voting to reelect Barbara Boxer for Senator because of something she said back in 2004. QueerInSoCal is right that she said some not so swell stuff about marriage equality in 2004.

Prior to the court ruling that struck down Proposition 22 (a.k.a. the Knight Initiative, a.k.a. The Limitation on Marriage Proposition), and back when Mayor Gavin Newsom permitted same-sex/same gender marriages in San Francisco in the effort to challenge the legality of Prop 22, Sen. Boxer made a public comment on Mayor Newsom’s actions. In the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Top state Dems criticize S.F. mayor / TIGHTROPE: Politicians try not to anger voters — 50% of Californians oppose same-sex unions (February 20, 2004), Sen. Barbara Boxer is quoted:

Image: Senator Barbara Boxer (2004)“[Mayor Gavin Newsom] has decided to challenge state law. My opinion is that state law is fair and appropriate because it gives equal rights and responsibilities to all citizens.”

And, she has a public record on marriage equality before that. Culling quotes from the Sacramento Bee article Boxer Toes Careful Line On Gay Relationships — from July 18, 1996 — the Bee reports she said this about same-sex marriages:

Image: Senator Barbara Boxer (2000)Reflecting the political sensitivity of the issue, Sen. Barbara Boxer on Wednesday said she is comfortable with governments recognizing “domestic partnerships” between homosexual couples but not marriages The California Democrat said marriage traditionally has been recognized as a union between a man and a woman.

“But from the standpoint of society recognizing a long-term relationship of gay people, it’s called domestic partnerships,” she said. “That’s a sensible way to handle a very sensitive issue.”

…Asked how she felt about gay marriages, Boxer repeatedly stressed that she neither approves nor disapproves of consensual relationships. “I don’t think it’s my job as a . . . senator to tell people how to run their lives,” she said.

But she demurred on the question of whether governments should recognize gay marriages. “A domestic partnership (recognizes) a long-term relationship of people of the same sex, and marriage (recognizes) a long-term relationship of people of the opposite sex,” she said.

Her position on marriage equality has changed, of course. From her Sen. Boxer’s 2010 campaign website, we have this (link in quote box added):

[More below the fold.]

Stand with Barbara for Marriage Equality

On Wednesday, in a long-awaited and historic decision, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8, ruling that the Constitution protected the fundamental right of marriage for all couples in California.

Image: Senator Barbara Boxer (2010)When Judge Walker’s ruling was announced, Barbara Boxer declared:

“This historic decision is a step forward in the march toward equal rights and reflects a growing legal consensus that marriage equality is protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

But we know that there is so much more work to do to ensure equality.

Let Barbara know where you stand in this important fight. Fill out this form to sign her petition affirming Wednesday’s decision.


I proudly stand with Barbara Boxer in the fight for marriage equality. Judge Walker’s ruling confirms the growing consensus that marriage equality is protected by the Constitution. It was an important step forward in the march toward equal rights for all Americans.

So, it appears Mayor Newsom has been a leader on marriage equality, and Sen. Boxer has been a follower on that same issue. But that said, her rhetoric seems to indicate she’s onboard with marriage equality now. How she got there — well, let me quote Martin Luther King Jr.:

Do to us what you will and we will still love you…. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.

And the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has appeared to move her to the socially progressive LGBT side of the issue of marriage equality — and perhaps it actually was with our appeals to her heart and conscience…and because that’s where the LGBT community members’ votes are.

MLK Jr. also said:

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?

Expediency asks the question – is it politic?

Vanity asks the question – is it popular?

But conscience asks the question – is it right?

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.

In Sen. Boxer’s political career, it appears she asked if herself whether marriage equality was safe, politic, or popular; but when she held her previous “A domestic partnership (recognizes) a long-term relationship of people of the same sex, and marriage (recognizes) a long-term relationship of people of the opposite sex” position on marriage equality, it appears she didn’t ask herself if her position was the morally right position.

But should we hold a politician accountable for acting like a politician in her rhetoric against full marriage equality in 1996 and 2004 when she’s with us with her rhetoric in 2010?

Maybe the real question isn’t what she’s said in the past on marriage equality, or what she’s saying now — it more of what is she going to do, if reelected, to see the repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) actually occurs? If DOMA were to come up now, it would just be blocked in another filibuster by socially conservative Republicans.

And frankly, the LGBT community isn’t going to see the repeal of DOMA or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) — or the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — if the Democrats in the Senate don’t have a plan to get rid of the current Senate rules on filibusters. What does Sen. Boxer propose the Democrats in the Senate should do to overcome the excessive use of filibusters by the Republicans? And assuming the Democrats do have a plan to break the filibuster induced gridlock in the Senate, does that mean that LGBT legislation is actually going to be passed in both houses of congress so the President can sign these into law? I haven’t heard from Sen. Boxer how she’s going to change her pro-LGBT rhetoric into pro-equality legislation that a president will sign into law.

The bottom line for me is that as a California citizen, I’m going to vote for Sen. Boxer. That’s because I see her as the best choice of the candidates for Senator of the candidates I’m presented with this election (Carly Fiorina — *Shiver*). However, it won’t be an enthusiastic vote for her as some sort of fierce advocate for LGBT civil rights — or even a vote for a functional U.S. Senate.

We definitely could use a fierce advocate for LGBT issues — and a fierce advocate for changing Senate filibuster rules — representing my home state of California, but as far as I can tell, Sen. Boxer isn’t that fierce advocate.

So, I’m definitely not sending any money to Sen. Boxer’s reelection campaign. I’ve limited resources, and Sen. Boxer doesn’t seem to be the kind of candidate I’d want to expend some of my limited resources on to reelect. She’ll get my unenthusiastic vote — which will count as much as an enthusiastic vote, I know — but she won’t getting any more from me this election season than that unenthusiastic vote.


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