for U.S. Senate
Dianne Feinstein has been a solid voice in the U.S. Senate for LGBT rights since she was first elected in 1992. Now seeking re-election, Feinstein is the only choice for our readers and the Bay Area Reporter recommends her for another term.
While Feinstein is seen as the more moderate of California's two Democratic senators, she has long stood up for equal rights. To her credit, Feinstein was one of only a handful of senators to vote against both "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act; and these votes occurred at a time when discrimination against LGBT Americans was widespread, including among many Democrats. Four years ago, during the Proposition 8 campaign, Feinstein came out in support of marriage equality and was featured in one of the No on 8 campaign's more effective television ads, though that was not enough to persuade voters not to ban same-sex marriage. Four years before that, she, of course, famously chided then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for ordering city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying his decision was "too much, too fast, too soon." But Newsom had a point, and helped further the marriage equality debate.
Last year, Feinstein introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. Unfortunately because of Senate rules, the bill has not yet been voted on and in today's hyper-partisan political climate, it's not likely to go to the floor in the few remaining months of this Congress. During a recent meeting with the B.A.R. editorial board, Feinstein said that she plans to reintroduce the bill after the new Congress convenes in January. But she added that she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court "beats her to it" – regarding DOMA's demise – and that is a real possibility now that the anti-gay law has been ruled unconstitutional by several federal courts.
One of the realities of today's Senate is that it often takes years to pass legislation. Feinstein gave us examples of how it has taken her 10 years to see a fuel mileage efficiency bill passed. "It's a long slog and it takes time, and this is a very controversial bill," she said of the Respect for Marriage Act.
Feinstein is a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, and in that role has vetted Supreme Court nominees and other federal judicial officers. It's an important job, as the president seeks to fill vacancies with appointees who more closely match his philosophy and not that of conservative ideologues who believe that the U.S. Constitution is not a living document and should be read literally.
On the issue of immigration reform, we would like to see the senator support the Uniting American Families Act, which was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) in 2011. But she told us that her focus now is on her marriage bill. Until either of these bills finds enough senators to sponsor them, floor votes are unlikely.
Californians need Feinstein's voice in the Senate; she is poised to win re-election, as she faces a Republican candidate with little name recognition. Sending Feinstein, a powerful ally, back to Washington can only help in the march toward LGBT equality.