Checchi Backs State Recognition of Employees' Same-Sex Relationships


Gubernatorial hopeful Al Checchi outlined a gay-friendly agenda Thursday that includes recognizing the same-sex relationships of state employees and supporting adoptions by gay and lesbian couples.

In a West Hollywood speech to gay political activists, the Democrat also called for extending state anti-discrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians and endorsed expanded AIDS treatment programs.

"One of the principal challenges of leadership is bringing people together," Checchi said. "A good starting point is not discriminating against them based on sexual orientation."

Among the highlights of his breakfast speech to Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality, or ANGLE, Checchi said that if elected governor he would:

* Extend medical benefits to state employees in same-sex relationships and support legislation to recognize contractual rights for all domestic partners. Checchi maintained that the cost could easily be financed by growing state revenues.

Last fall, the UC Board of Regents voted to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of gay employees, over the strenuous opposition of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

* Sign legislation to bar discrimination in education and employment based on sexual orientation. Such legislation has repeatedly failed in recent years.

* Support adoption by same-sex couples.

* Veto anti-gay legislation, expand enforcement of hate-crime laws and oppose any anti-gay ballot measures.

* Work with the Legislature to expand AIDS treatment programs.

In an interview after his appearance, Checchi also said that as governor he would sign a bill to legalize same-sex marriage if it passed the Legislature. However, "I do not anticipate that is going to happen," Checchi said.

The former co-chairman of Northwest Airlines conceded that the company--"like the entire airline industry"--does not provide benefits to same-sex partners. He said he expects that to change under a new contract currently being negotiated.

Gays and lesbians have long been an important Democratic constituency, and each of the party's gubernatorial hopefuls--Lt. Gov Gray Davis and Torrance Rep. Jane Harman, as well as Checchi--enjoy support within the community. "Quite honestly, I think people are going to be all over,' said one gay activist who attended Thursday's breakfast. "I think the community perceives all of [the Democratic candidates] as being good on our issues."

Republican Dan Lungren has supported expanding federal hate-crime legislation to cover gays and lesbians. But he opposes gay marriage. A spokesman for Lungren said the state attorney general has no position on giving medical benefits to state employees in same-sex relationships.

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