Johnny Khamis’ sudden exit before Tuesday’s City Council vote on an amicus brief supporting same-sex marriage had nothing to do with his conservative views, the councilmember insists.
“I sat through three-and-a-half hours of closed session meetings and four hours of the other one,” Khamis said, in between coughing fits, by phone Wednesday. “I was coughing and sneezing all day.”
He added: “People insisted I leave.”
The timing, however, appeared at first glance to be a political statement. Khamis has gone on record as a libertarian-leaning Republican, which sounds an awful lot like a Tea Partier, and supports Prop. 8, the state’s controversial gay marriage ban. He said would have voted against the item, which passed on a 9-1 vote. Mayor Chuck Reed, who maintains he’s not a Republican, was the only dissenting vote, noting that Prop 8 “is the law in California, so I’m going to support the law whichever way the people want to go. So, I’m not going to support his motion.”
San Jose will now join San Francisco in an amicus brief that will be to sent to the U.S. Supreme Court, as it weighs the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Khamis chief of staff Shane Patrick Connolly, who is listed as an active member of California’s chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, also stated that Khamis didn’t intend to make a silent statement but was forced by illness to watch the rest of the meeting from home. (Click on “video” for the Feb. 12 meeting, scroll to the end of the video-linked agenda and click on “Proposition 8 Amicus Brief” to see the council discussion.)
“I was going to vote against it not because of my own beliefs but because of the will of the people,” Khamis said. “I just don’t think that we should overturn the will of the voters, who voted for it in the first place. I believe in equality for everybody … I believe we should give everyone a civil union, for homosexual and heterosexual couples.”
His plan to vote against the amicus brief, Khamis said, was in the spirit of his elected position representing the majority of voters who supported the gay marriage ban.
“If it was put to another vote, I’m sure it would be overturned,” he said. “There’s been a lot more public support for that lately. But if we want to change the law, that’s the way it should be done. … If the voters had voted another way, I would have supported that, too.”
Councilmember Pete Constant, also a Republican, surprised many at the meeting by supporting San Jose’s addition to the amicus brief. While noting his Greek Orthodox religious beliefs, which include opposing homosexuality and gay marriage, Constant said: “If there was law that I had to follow some other faith, I would be pretty pissed off.”