Bill Quirk, Luis Reynoso, Jaime Patino

ASSEMBLY | 20TH DISTRICT | When it comes to gay marriage, candidates for the 20th Assembly District made a mad dash to the left of each other, but not before two of them swung wildly to the right when it comes to gender identification.

Incumbent Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Republican Jaime Patino and nonpartisan Luis Reynoso, formerly a member of the GOP, all registered strong support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues before attempts to shade differences in their position.

Patino, a first-time candidate from Union City, appeared to set the tone last Friday night at a candidate’s forum in Fremont when in response to a question on equity and, specifically, LGBT issues, he veered well left of the Republican Party’s ambiguous stance. “I’m one of the few—and I may get in trouble tomorrow when it hits the news—but, I’m one of the few Republicans out there that actually is supportive of gay marriage and I’ve always been,” said Patino. “It’s out there and if people want to make a big thing, let them.”

“I feel very much for people in the LGBT community, any community that is discriminated against, because it doesn’t just scar that particular community; it scars the whole city, the whole area,” said Patino. “And it also hurts us economically because businesses see that and they don’t want to be in an area that’s putting up with that stuff.”

Quirk, whose liberalism is questioned by few, seemed pleasantly surprised by Patino’s statements. “Let me say, it is a pleasure to have Mr. Patino state what he did and to say that he’s for gay marriage and I really appreciate it,” said Quirk. However, Patino’s comments were also the catalyst for each candidate to draw distinctions in their support for gay marriage.

Quirk then rushed further left, stating he has supported gay marriage “ever since it became an idea” and then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made a strong push for it in 2004. He also touted his support for a controversial assembly bill, AB 1266, strongly opposed by state conservatives, which would allow transgender children to assign their own gender when it comes to sex-segregated school programs, athletics and facilities. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last August. “I’m out on the edge on this and I’m proud to be out on the edge,” said Quirk.

On gay marriage, Reynoso said, “This is really a non-issue because discrimination is discrimination. When it comes to gay marriage, the government can’t tell you who to marry and they cannot tell you who to divorce, either.” However, when it comes to AB 1266, it’s a different story. “We’re really operating on shaky ground at that point because for us to demand a kindergarten girl’s bathroom to be available to a six-year-old boy because he feels he’s a girl, it’s a privacy issue. The issue needs to be examined more carefully,” said Reynoso, who is also an elected member of the Hayward school board. “Facilities use are not there for us to exercise our gender, but rather to use them in private.” Reynoso’s first move to the left followed by a sharp turn to the right, then set off a similar tag-team attack by him and Patino on Quirk also witnessed earlier this month over the Calpine Russell City Energy Center issue.

“The line stops when it comes to kids using the same restroom,” Patino said in his rebuttal. Local school districts should be allowed to make their own decisions on the matter, he added. “Because what flies in San Francisco, may not fly in Tulare County and Sacramento should not be putting the values of San Francisco down the throat of people in the valley or the Inland Empire that don’t agree with that.”

Quirk then asserted Republicans, in general, now laud Civil Rights leaders of yesterday after doing nothing to support the cause when it was occurring. “You know, that’s what it takes being out on the edge,” said Quirk. “When you’re being a pioneer, when you are seeing what’s new. What we’re seeing today is Republicans love Cesar Chavez . Republicans love Martin Luther King, but when they were out pushing the envelope, the Republicans weren’t to be seen. I’m very proud to be pushing the envelope.”

The forum moved on to another question on green building and renewable energy, but the previous back-and-forth clearly festered. After Patino answered the question, he quickly responded to Quirk’s comment, “This Republican was at Kitayama Nursery in Union City back when I was a kid. This Republican was there. This Republican’s parents were farm workers, so don’t lump everybody all together. We shouldn’t do that.” Reynoso followed. “Mr. Quirk doesn’t really understand Martin Luther King was a Republican. Don’t forget that,” said Reynoso. “One of the greatest fighters for equal justice was actually a Republican.