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Mayoral candidate explains his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act by saying his own marriages were so bad he didn’t understand why the community cared so much.
By plenty of accounts, Democratic Congressman Bob Filner was a hit at last night’s LGBT mayoral forum in Hillcrest.
Filner’s record is generally well received in the gay community except for one big vote.
In 1996, Filner voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. He’s said he regretted the vote since, but he still faces questions about it.
LGBT Weekly asked Filner about his vote in an interview published today and when pressed the congressman gave a curious response for why he supported it.
In essence, Filner said his own divorces jaded him on the concept of marriage and he wondered why anyone would want to wed. Here’s the full exchange:
Let’s get the one blemish on your record supporting LGBT rights — that is DOMA — out of the way. I think you’ve been on the record as saying you regretted the vote.
I didn’t understand the depth of the feeling on the issue. I have since voted differently and signed things differently.
When you say the depth of feeling, do you mean on the part of LGBT people?
I mean the sense of both commitment of two people, the love of two people, and the sense of oppression that other people can do this and you can’t. The unfairness of it worked out in so many practical ways, whether it’s hospital visits or whatever.
You mean the more than 1,200 legal rights and privileges enjoyed by straight married couples and not by gays and lesbians?
Right, and it’s just stupid. But, as a heterosexual person who’s been married, you can take quite a cynical view of marriage and wonder why would you want to – the last one took all my money; all my property. I mean if it doesn’t work out; then you’ve got to get divorced. As someone who’s been divorced a couple of times — and I don’t mean to make light of it — but I took it as … like why would you want this? I didn’t (consider) it deeply enough.
Did you take time to think about it?
I did meet with people about it. I mean it was an important vote. I probably met with more people about it after the vote (subdues chuckle). Ultimately I voted for (the Defense of Marriage Act). And I ended up regretting it.
How long after?
Oh, within a few months. People were upset after the vote. I think — I mean I don’t know why (pauses). I think people may have taken my vote for granted in the sense that they didn’t lobby me the way they might have otherwise. I was visited by couples and friends of mine who were very disappointed with my vote and I listened.
But you took that vote with the knowledge that not only were you voting to deny people the right to marry, but that they would also be denied tax and other benefits.
I guess I bought the notion that domestic partnership laws would or could take care of most of the legal distinctions or the 1,200 things you mentioned.
It also seems worth mentioning here that Filner recently became engaged again, according to U-T San Diego.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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