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Recipients Upset by Senator's Letter on Gay Marriage Bill

March 13, 1996|BETTINA BOXALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State Sen. Ray Haynes says he believes in making his position on issues very clear. So when he responded to lesbian couples writing him about a same-sex marriage bill, he didn't stint on details.

In explaining why he supports legislation barring recognition of same-sex matrimony, the conservative Riverside Republican gave his correspondents a paragraph-long lesson on the sperm and the egg.

He thanked them for writing, while pointing out that their advocacy of gay marriage denigrated the moral concept of family and undermined American society. He enclosed an excerpt of an anti-gay tract published by a psychologist who has been professionally censured for misrepresenting research on homosexuals.

And, oddly, Haynes informed these advocates of gay marriage that he was squarely against "heterogeneous promiscuity" and out-of-wedlock births, sending them a copy of a conservative think tank's piece about declining marriage rates.

"Since I cannot defend behavior with no social redeeming value, your request has no equitableness," Haynes wrote.

His reply has left some of its recipients sputtering.

"I was just really infuriated at his condescending approach," said Patricia del Valle, who lives with her partner and two college-age children in Venice. "He's just saying we're as weird as they come. There was no humanity in this letter."

Grumbling that "our elected officials are giving out propaganda," Kathleen Scott of Los Angeles said she was stunned by Haynes' response. "To tell you the truth--and I hope this doesn't offend anybody--I began to feel like a Jewish person in Nazi Germany."

Haynes stands by the letter.

"They're just trying to castigate me in some sort of negative way," the senator said in an interview. "I'm not going to apologize for anything in the letter and I'm going to vote for the . . . bill."

Del Valle was one of hundreds who have written Haynes and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to vote down an Assembly-approved proposal to bar California from legally recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Gay marriages are not lawful anywhere in the nation, but a pending Hawaii court case has the potential of legalizing them there. As a result, about half the states, including California, are considering legislation to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage. Anti-gay-marriage measures have been adopted in Utah and South Dakota.

Opponents of the California bill have organized a letter-writing campaign to the Judiciary Committee, hoping that the panel will kill the proposal before it advances to the Senate floor. An aide to Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier), the committee's chairman, said last week that Calderon's mail was running about 8 to 1 against the measure.

Haynes said his mail has been pretty evenly split on the issue.

He added that he sends basically the same reply to everyone who writes him, varying the language somewhat according to the person's position.

The letter received by several lesbians included a biology lesson.

"The male reproductive system is designed for continuous production of a large number of sperm within a fluid medium," Haynes wrote. "The female reproductive system is designed for the monthly production of an egg and preparation of the uterus for possible implantation of the fertilized egg, by coitus."

"I was trying," Haynes later said, "to go through in the letter and define what I thought were all the various reasons for family and why same-sex marriage doesn't fit into that."

Haynes also wrote that "sodomy is a violation of . . . the California Penal Code."

In fact, consensual sodomy between adults is legal in California.

As for the excerpt of a publication by psychologist Paul Cameron, Haynes said he was not familiar with Cameron's background, but thought that the material he cited made sense.

Cameron's statements about homosexuals have repeatedly come under fire as distorted and biased. He was expelled from the American Psychological Assn. in 1983 and reprimanded by the Nebraska Psychological Assn. A 1982 federal court opinion issued in a case in which Cameron testified described him as "not a credible witness."

The material enclosed by Haynes comes from a pamphlet called the "Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do." Citing obituaries in 16 gay publications, the piece purported to show that homosexuals have much shorter life spans than heterosexuals.

But epidemiologists say checking obituaries is not the way to get a scientifically accurate picture of gay life spans.

"There are so many potential selection biases that come into it that the conclusions he draws do not appear valid," said Dr. Ralph R. Frerichs, professor and chairman of the UCLA Department of Epidemiology.

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