Out CA Congressman Fights for Equality
In a wide ranging interview, California’s first openly gay congressman, in office just over 100 days, addressed the challenging issues facing the LGBT community and pledged to fight efforts to "turn back the clock" on equality and opportunity.
Before discussing LGBT issues, Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), in a telephone interview from his Capitol Hill office, said the Boston Marathon bombings and the citywide lockdown, in effect at the time of the April 19 interview, had special meaning for him as he graduated from Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Takano, 53, who is also the first gay person of color elected to Congress, said he felt connected to the tragedy in another way. Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Chinese graduate student killed in the bombing, had studied at UC Riverside, he said. The young woman, who was a student at Boston University at the time of her death, was remembered by Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai at a Chinese Embassy ceremony in Washington, which Takano attended.
At the time of the interview, the alleged Boston bombers were identified as being of Chechen descent. Takano said it would be "unfortunate for this tragedy to be politicized" in a way that would harshen debate on immigration reform for the 11 million immigrants, including LGBT immigrants, in the U.S.
Takano said there were good aspects to current immigration reform legislation, but work is needed to make immigration equality a reality for same-sex binational couples. [See story, page 7.]
Regarding last month’s U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments on Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex families, Takano said he was "cautiously optimistic" the court would rule for marriage equality. He said there is nationwide support for same-sex marriage and the high court should not "turn back the clock on marriage equality."
"Justice [Anthony] Kennedy should poetically use the language of the 14th Amendment [to the U.S Constitution] in his decision rather than ’legalese’ of states’ rights," Takano said. He called on the high court to issue a national finding for marriage equality rather than a narrow finding.
He also discussed the possibility of Democrats retaking control of the House in next year’s midterm elections.
"Democrats can absolutely regain the House of Representatives in 2014," Takano said. The GOP leadership has revealed its "extreme" vision for the country in the budget by anti-LGBT Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, he said.
In the GOP budget, Takano said, defense spending escapes sequester while cuts in discretionary spending would be increased.
"It is very unpopular" among Democrats and LGBT members, he said.
Takano said House Republicans were "hypocrites" for criticizing President Barack Obama for not having a budget then refusing to reconcile their budget with the Senate budget, drafted by LGBT ally Patty Murray (D-Washington).