Legacy matters, especially to solidify the historic reputation of outgoing leaders and when used for optics during political campaigns. The fight to control the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan and to create the legacy of longtime California Gov. Jerry Brown was a powerful juxtaposition just 43 miles apart on Thursday, a symbolic duel of significance to the LGBT community.
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spoke to supporters of the Trump-Pence ticket on Thursday at the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. Ronald Reagan was a popular governor of California before becoming the two-term President of the United States and is an icon for the Republican Party. Pence tried to capitalize on the Reagan reputation for toughness on the world stage.
“[L]ike Reagan, I believe Donald Trump has the toughness to rebuild our economy and command the respect of the world,” Pence said. “The smart set in Washington, D.C., mocked and dismissed the California governor in many ways. They said he was little more than a celebrity and an entertainer who entered politics late in life. Sound familiar?”
But Pence, the anti-gay governor of Indiana, also backed Trump’s “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after the GOP presidential nominee said Putin was a better leader than President Obama and went on state-run Russian TV to slam the “dishonest media” and express doubt that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee. Neither Pence nor Trump seemed bothered by the authoritarian former KGB operative’s thuggish actions, including invading foreign lands, killing journalists, inspiring well-documented witch hunts against gays and arresting LGBT protesters.
“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence told CNN. “And that’s going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president.”
But those tasked with protecting Ronald Reagan’s legacy—his children—are aghast at the comparison. “My father would be appalled. I’m certainly appalled on behalf of my father and the Reagan family,” Michael Reagan said in a video before Pence’s speech, adding that Reagan would never demean people as Trump is wont to do. They did not comment on Trump’s penchant for praising Putin, who Reagan would most likely suggest has transformed Russia back into what the GOP president once described as “the evil empire.”
Ironically, one the same day Pence was pretzel-twisting Reagan’s legacy in Simi Valley, California Gov. Jerry Brown was at Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Los Angeles engaged in a bill-signing ceremony that will solidify his legacy as a powerful Democratic for progressives. Brown signed SB 32, a major climate change bill authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, that imposes a significant expansion of the state’s greenhouse gas emission standards, requiring a reduction of emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
“This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown said Thursday.
But while Brown already has an historic legacy with the LGBT community—having appointed Steve Lachs as the nation’s first openly gay judge on the municipal bench in 1979, among other accomplishments for gay rights and having refused to defend anti-gay Prop 8 in federal court both as attorney general and as governor—Brown has not yet signed this year’s flurry of important LGBT bills sitting on his desk.
But one bill in particular— AB 1887: “Prevent California-Funded Travel to States with A License to Discriminate” by out Assemblymember Evan Low—would also send a significant message to the nation.
“AB 1887 would prohibit state agencies and the Legislature from approving state funded or sponsored travel to a state that, after June 26, 2015, has enacted a law that voids or repeals existing state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, or has enacted a law that authorizes or requires discrimination against same-sex couples or their families on these bases,” Equality California, a co-sponsor with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, explains on the its website.
The law allows for common sense exemptions such as travel connected to enforcing state law or required by existing contracts. The attorney general will determine which states belong on the travel ban list.
AB 1887 is important to solidifying Brown’s legacy with the LGBT community because of the ripple effect of withholding California’s enormous economic clout and because California needs to lead, not fall behind other governors in fighting for LGBT civil rights who have have already signed executive orders on travel bans expressing the same sentiment.
“When we see discrimination and injustice, we have to act,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a statement last March blasting North Carolina Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCory for signing the egregious anti-LGBT bill, HB2.
But unlike other states, AB 1887 was overwhelmingly passed by the State Legislature as an expression of the people’s will.
“With the governor’s signature, AB 1887 will send the strongest message from a state or municipality to date that discrimination is costly,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “AB 1887 would target any state or city that passes a new law targeting LGBT people with discrimination. While other jurisdictions have banned employee travel through executive order to places like North Carolina or Mississippi, California would be the first to do so through a vote by elected representatives. AB 1887 would put the full weight of the world’s sixth-largest economy fully on the side of fairness and equality and would serve as a strong disincentive to legislatures considering new anti-LGBT laws.”
To urge Gov. Brown to sign AB 1887, post a note on his Twitter account: @JerryBrownGov #SignAB1887TravelBan