Gay Marriage Seeps in Sacramento DA’s Race
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The voter initiative banning gay marriage dominated California’s political landscape six years ago, and it still casts a shadow over the race for district attorney in Sacramento County.
One of the leading candidates for the job, Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, is openly gay - a distinction that generally wouldn’t matter in a state in which 7 percent of the Legislature is gay, including both the current and former speakers of the state Assembly.
But Schubert also is the younger sister of Proposition 8’s key proponent and political strategist, Frank Schubert, and opponents of California’s marriage ban, which finally fell to court challenges last year, have long memories.
Gay and lesbian groups say she failed to speak out against the initiative at the time. Because of that, they are working to defeat her, even though she has the support of the current district attorney and every major law enforcement association in the region.
Moreover, some contend that Anne Marie Schubert is one of the few people who could have made a difference in the outcome of the 2008 vote, had she held a news conference with her then-partner and their two children denouncing the initiative.
"Others want to make her into something she isn’t," said her political consultant, Dave Gilliard. "She’s not a political activist in that arena and never has been."
Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote, amending the California Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Schubert, a Republican facing two Democrats in the June 3 primary, now finds herself opposed by the same gay and lesbian groups that have been trying to promote candidates. If elected, she would become the highest-ranking openly gay official in Sacramento County’s history.
"The gay community has wanted an opportunity to punish Frank Schubert for a long time," said Kathleen Finnerty, a founding member of SacLEGAL, Sacramento Lawyers for the Equality of Gays and Lesbians.
Finnerty, who supports Schubert in the race, also is a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento. That organization and the Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce have endorsed state Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell.
"Doing nothing probably didn’t work to her benefit because it came back to bite her," Paul Weubbe, chairman of the Rainbow chamber’s political action committee, said of Schubert’s public silence on Proposition 8.
Krell also is supported by Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, all Democrats.
The endorsements are breaking along traditional political lines for what is supposed to be a nonpartisan office. Jones said through a spokeswoman that Proposition 8 was one of several factors that led him to endorse Krell, and Steinberg said in a statement that the county needs leaders "who will take a tough stand on vital issues like Prop. 8."
Spokesmen for Brown and Harris would not say whether the Proposition 8 debate played a role in their endorsement.
There is no ethical guideline that would have prevented Schubert from speaking out during the Proposition 8 campaign, said Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles and a former general counsel for the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, said employees are free to express their opinions as long as they do not use their official position or title and do not give the appearance that their position represents the views of the district attorney or her office.
A year after Proposition 8 passed, Schubert briefly ran for Sacramento County Superior Court judge. She told several media outlets then that she could not discuss same-sex marriage or the initiative because the judicial code prohibits judges and judicial candidates from expressing opinions about issues that might come before the court.
Neither Schubert responded to interview requests. Financial reports filed with Sacramento County show Anne Marie Schubert accepted at least $2,600 in campaign contributions from her brother.
Members of the gay community say their backing of Schubert’s main opponent has to do with more than Proposition 8. They say she never engaged with them before she began running for office.
That shouldn’t matter to voters, Schubert’s supporters say.
"She’s been very clear on her orientation, but also that it has nothing to do with her job," said Gilliard, Schubert’s political consultant.