California Lt. Gov. Says He Had More Important Things To Do Than File Prop 8 Appeal

California Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado

California Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado

Earlier this week, anti-gay activists launched a harassment campaign against California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado (R), flooding his office and cell phone with demands that he file an appeal defending Proposition 8.  Although the state’s lt. governor normally does not have this authority, Maldonado temporarily is allowed to act as governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is traveling abroad.

To his credit, Maldonado chose not to overrule Gov. Schwarzenegger’s decision not to file this anti-gay appeal, and his explanation of this decision is not likely to earn him friends with the anti-gay right:

Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado said yesterday he did not file an appeal from a federal court ruling striking down the state’s anti-same-sex marriage initiative because he was focused on other matters and had not discussed the matter with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. . . .

“I was focused on San Bruno, I was focused on Bell, and I hadn’t discussed it with the governor,” he told Hogue. “Proposition 8”—which Maldonado supported—“was not discussed” at all, he said. . . .

Maldonado went to San Mateo County to oversee emergency operations resulting from the gas explosion that destroyed a neighborhood and killed at least four people there last Thursday. He also signed legislation relating to the recent disclosure of extraordinary salary payments to officials, and other possible irregularities, in the mile-square city of Bell, including one that authorizes distribution of certain tax overpayments directly to city residents. . . .

Maldonado’s announcement that he was too busy bringing a lethal disaster under control to deny constitutional rights to gay people is not sitting well with Prop 8’s proponents.  In a press release attacking Maldonado, the anti-gay Capitol Resource Institute accused him of “negligence” and of displaying “an arrogance and aloofness that suggested he was more concerned that we busied his phones than anything else.”

The right’s dissatisfaction with Maldonado could open a new battlefield in the growing civil war between establishment Republicans and those who view any departure from right-wing orthodoxy as an unforgivable betrayal.  In their original press release announcing the effort to pressure Maldonado, the anti-gay activists warned that the lt. governor would suffer electoral consequences if he did not cave to their wishes.

Yet if the anti-gay right actually does follow through on their promise to punish Maldonado, they could be in for a rude awakening on election day.  Maldonado’s opponent in the upcoming lt. governor’s race is none other than marriage equality pioneer and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.