Arnold Schwarzenegger reminded us last week why we're trying so hard to forget him. In an interview with 60 Minutes, part of an endless promotional tour for his non-awaited tell-all book, Schwarzenegger revealed that while he was governor of California he personally performed two same-sex marriage ceremonies. I suppose this was supposed to warm our hearts toward the Governator and signal that the Mister Macho of the movies is really a romantic softy at heart.
It might be a touching sign of modernity to have the governor of a state perform a same-sex wedding, but not when the governor in question has arguably done more harm to marriage equality than any state official in the country. As governor, Schwarzenegger vetoed marriage equality in California not once, but twice. Perhaps he should have stood up for the rights of loving couples either time he had the chance.
Schwarzenegger doesn't seem to see this as a contradiction. Here's his explanation of why he officiated at his chief-of-staff Susan Kennedy's same-sex wedding: "I don't have to be for gay marriage. I'm for that she gets the kind of wedding and the kind of ceremony that I had when I got married with Maria (Shriver)," he said. (Would that every loving gay couple could have a marriage like Arnold and Maria's).
Every anti-gay politician these days likes to boast about his or her gay friends and co-workers as if that somehow insulates them from charges of prejudice. But Schwarzenegger has taken the "gay friends" defense to a whole new level. Not only does he have gay friends, he thinks his gay friends -- but only his friends -- should have the right to marry, too.
That he celebrated his gay staffer's marriages while working to ensure that gay people in his state didn't have access to marriage at all shows his patented cluelessness. When Schwarzenegger says that he wanted his chief-of-staff to have "the kind of wedding and the kind of ceremony that I had when I got married with Maria," I have no doubt that he's telling the truth. He just hasn't seemed to realize that people he doesn't know personally might want the same thing.
"I, personally, always said that marriage is between a man and a woman," Schwarzenegger said. "But I would never enforce my will on people."
"If they want to get married, let them get married."
Not enforce his will on people? That the governor who vetoed marriage equality twice doesn't understand this fundamental inconsistency perhaps explains how he was going to clean up California's finances yet brought the state record deficits. It's how someone who leaves office with record low approval ratings from a state desperately trying to forget him answers the public's non-curiosity about his life with a tell-all book. In addition to the mess he left for California, his book allows us to know the details of his flings, including one with his housekeeper. But we should be sure to never forget something he doesn't include in his tell-all: his singular contribution to holding back
equality for so many gay Americans, at least the ones who don't work for him.