Simon says …

By Jane Chastain

“Simon Says” is a game in which participants are commanded to perform a series of unrelated actions in rapid succession. The key to winning this game is to keep track of what Simon actually says. Keeping track of what Bill Simon, the Republican nominee for governor of California, is saying about issues promoted by “gay” rights activists has proved to be every bit as difficult and frustrating.

For more than a week, his campaign has been in disarray and off-message because of a questionnaire his staff filled out and submitted to a homosexual group, the Log Cabin Republicans, bearing his computer-generated signature.

In that questionnaire, which Simon said he did not review, he appeared to endorse a laundry list of items on the “gay” rights wish list. To make matters worse, last Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sal Russo, Simon’s chief strategist, said his candidate “was not backing away from the statements made to the Log Cabin Republicans, except for the answer about Gay Pride Day proclamations.” The questionnaire response said that Simon would sign them.

That let stand other troubling statements made on that questionnaire that indicated that if Simon were elected governor:

  1. He would not seek to repeal or modify Gov. Gray Davis’ policy facilitating adoptions by same sex couples.

  2. He would back special interest charter status for homosexual groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans in the California Republican Party.

  3. He would endorse the concept of “domestic partnerships” and said he would consider “adding rights” for any two individuals “who have established a strong, caring relationship.”

On Sept. 1, Bill Simon wrote a letter to State Sen. Ray Haynes, one of his most respected conservative supporters, attempting to clarify his position on several issues – but he was vague. Simon said he was a “strong, pro-family candidate” who hadn’t changed his views since the primary election.

Over the next several days, during a series of interviews and news conferences, Simon appeared to follow that script, thinking that would be enough. It wasn’t, because the statement made by Russo, which appeared to be designed to appease homosexual groups, was direct and contradicted many of the ideals that Simon had expressed in his recent letter.

Thursday evening, Bill Simon set up a conference call with Sen. Haynes and me in an attempt to set the record straight.

Simon said that it was painful for him when he learned that this Log Cabin questionnaire had been sent out without his approval and that there were statements – not just one statement – with which he could not agree. Simon said, “Sal’s quote that it was just Gay Pride Proclamation Day was not right. Sal says that he was misquoted and I take him at his word.”

Simon was incredulous over the statement that he would seek charter status for the group since it is against California Republican Party bylaws to award charter status to organizations based on special agendas.

So far so good. However, Simon was unwilling to simply retract the entire questionnaire or tell me which of the other statements he had problems with. By Thursday, the Log Cabin questionnaire had been out there for a full eight days and he had been doing damage control for over a week. The fact that he could not – or would not – say which statements he would keep or throw out is troubling.

Then, I asked him to comment specifically on the question on gay adoptions. The questionnaire said that he would “not seek to repeal or modify certain legislation signed by Gov. Gray Davis facilitating adoptions by same sex couples.” Simon said he felt the premise of the question was “unfair” since a governor cannot repeal a law passed by the legislature.

However, the rule governing adoptions in California was not done with legislation. The Department of Social Services proposed new rules when Pete Wilson was governor. They were rejected by Wilson and later approved by Davis. Under governors Deukmejian and Wilson in the 1980s and most of the 1990s, an unmarried couple could not jointly adopt children. Also, married couples were given preference over single individuals – who could adopt children only if there were not enough married couples waiting in line.

Simon would not address any hypothetical questions about what might happen in the future. Instead, he said that his statements on the welfare of children have been consistent, and those statements were included in the letter he wrote to Haynes: “The best family environment for a child is a home with a mother and father … I want to ensure that every effort is made for the best possible environment for children.” Sen. Haynes is satisfied with that.

By far, the most troubling part of our conversation was on the issue of domestic partnerships. Bill Simon is unwilling to go on record in opposition to all forms of domestic partnerships – only those that are based on sexual orientation – even though, on Feb. 6, he signed the Marriage Protection Pledge. In the last paragraph of that pledge, the paragraph just above his signature, Simon pledged to “refuse to support ‘domestic partnerships,’ ‘civil unions,’ or any kind of relationship that compares itself to the sacred bond of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Simon says he does not see any conflict with the pledge and the stand he appears to be taking now. This is Clintonesque or, more correctly, Grayesque. Yes, even California’s left-wing Democrat governor refused to support an open-ended domestic partnership law that allows heterosexual couples to form a domestic partnership instead of a traditional marriage.

“Gay” rights activists want all the rights of marriage and they really don’t care who they bring along with them as long as they have their union sanctioned by the state. That is why Gray Davis held out for AB 25, a bill he signed last year. AB 25 expanded the Domestic Partners Registry created by Davis two years earlier, by awarding more than a dozen rights of marriage to same-sex couples and a smattering of unmarried heterosexual couples, if one partner is over the age of 62.

This allowed Davis to claim that he, too, was protecting marriage by allowing domestic partnerships to be formed only by those who could not form a traditional marriage, or by those who would suffer loss of benefits in a marriage.

Simon will say only that he is opposed to AB 25 because he claims that the language was “based on sexual orientation,” a claim that Davis is only too happy to refute. Simon also will say that he is not in favor of granting any “new rights” under this law, “as presently constituted.”

However, Simon cannot have it both ways: He must denounce domestic partnerships or he must tear up his marriage protection pledge.

This issue of protecting marriage goes far beyond “gay” rights. Research has shown that the best environment to raise good, productive citizens is in an intact family with a mother and a father. It costs money to raise children. That is why the government first put a hedge of protection around marriage. If everyone is allowed inside the hedge, then the hedge is, in effect, removed. It no longer has any meaning.

The issue is not whether homosexuals or any other group should be allowed to form a union that is equal to marriage, but whether marriage has outlived its usefulness. The majority of Californians think not!

In March of 2000, 4.6 million mainstream Californians went to the polls and in a primary election, voted for the Defense of Marriage Initiative. It passed overwhelmingly, 61.4 percent of the vote! This vote not only included the majority of Republicans in the state, but the Reagan Democrats as well.

With all this political posturing on the issue of domestic partnerships, Simon is not giving the Reagan Democrats a reason to cross over and vote for him. Furthermore, it has demoralized his base.

I remember the first time I heard Bill Simon speak. Finally, a candidate cut right out of the mold of Ronald Reagan, who could articulate the conservative message and bring all reasonable people on board! I immediately ran out and put a “Simon for Governor” bumper sticker on my car.

I believe that the Bill Simon with whom I spoke Thursday night is still the same man who energized me and so many others back in February. He has the ability to do that now, but it appears he has been backed into a corner by his advisers – who are running scared and who have instructed their candidate not to make any definitive statements on this issue. That telephone conversation was frustrating for both of us.

Bill Simon, please speak up! Make the case for the issues in which you believe. Do it now, while there is still time.