How much should the news media care that District 5 City Councilmember Carl DeMaio refuses to speak out on Proposition 8?
The voter-approved initiative, which changed the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, is one of the most fiercely debated political issues in California. Within San Diegos large and politically active gay and lesbian community, its arguably the issue of our time. Nonetheless, DeMaio has steadfastly refused to speak out for or against the law.
That in itself might not be the stuff of journalistic debateelected officials cant be expected to take a stance on everything. But DeMaio isnt just any elected official when it comes to Prop 8: Hes an openly gay Republican elected official, and thats prompted more than a couple of journalists to ask him where he stands on a law thats as overwhelmingly opposed by gays as its supported by Republicans. Every time, hes begged off the question.
The city faces the greatest financial crisis in its historythat is Councilmember DeMaios focus, replied Erica Mendelson, DeMaios spokesperson, in an e-mail when CityBeat popped the question.
So far, DeMaios silence on Prop. 8 has been met by equal silence by the mainstream media. No editorials criticizing the council members non-stance, no hectoring by reporters at news conferences to try to pin him down on the issue.
Should the media hold DeMaios feet to the fire for refusing to speak out on Proposition 8? Or should they accept his silence and move on?
DeMaio certainly has a right to simply keep quiet on it, says Martin Kruming, an instructor of media law at San Diego State Universitys School of Journalism and Media Studies. But does he have a responsibility as an elected public official to comment on an issue that affects a great many people? What separates Mr. DeMaio from you and me, I think, is his position on the issues. With regard to the medias role in raising the issue of why DeMaio wont comment, I think thats fair game.
Not surprisingly, Jess Durfee, chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, agrees.
DeMaio cant be gay part of the time, says Durfee, whos openly gay himself. Hes either part of the gay community or hes not, and if hes part of it, this is a paramount issue to the gay community, and he should say hes with us or not. If hes going to sit this one out, he should not be showing up at the [San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community] Center, and he should not be showing up to LGBT events acting like he wants to be embraced by the gay community when hes not ready to lead on an issue thats critical to the community.
Neither officials with the San Diego County Republican Party nor Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party and former San Diego County resident, responded to calls for comment by press time. But Randy Hope, editor of the San Diego-based Gay & Lesbian Times newspaper, did.
We at the paper do believe that DeMaio should answer the question, Hope says. If we took the word gay out of the scenario and replaced with any other ethnic groupif, say, DeMaio were Asian and there was a measure not allowing Asians to marrywe would expect him to be held to the same accountability.