Dymally, Mervyn: Moscone Stalling the Senate Floor


Mervyn Dymally: Well, that’s an interesting story. George Brown of Colorado and I became the first two African Americans to be elected Lieutenant Governor. P. B. S. Pinchback (Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback) of the Reconstruction era of Louisiana was Lieutenant Governor, but he was appointed as a number of elected officers. And so George Brown invited me to a reception to celebrate his victory in Colorado, and I went there. George Moscone called. I didn’t answer because it’s after five o’clock ya know? What can I do, I’m in Colorado? Jim Mills called, Willie Brown called, George Moscone called back again, but this time a state police officer showed up and politely said to me “I have instructions to take you to the airport.” So I go to the airport on the public telephone in the lobby hallway, and the staff desk sergeant of CHP (California Highway Patrol) said that Randy [ ] [Mr. Transportation] said that the helicopter cannot be used for political purposes. And I began screamin’ “I’m the Lieutenant Governor of California”, and all these White folks are walking by as a crazy man. Here’s this Black guy hollering he’s “Lieutenant Governor of California, and I demand that you pick me up.” So I call George. Well I call the office and I said get hold of Senator Moscone and tell him the CHP wouldn’t pick me up, and I got to San Francisco and there was a helicopter. So I strolled to the Senate podium and pretended I didn’t know what was going on, and I said “Mister Clerk, how has the President of the Senate voted?” “He has not voted, sir.” “The President votes I”, and the crowd went up in cheers, yeah. During that time, from the time they got stuck 20-20. Jon Rubin: Yeah, I was wondering if you could just tell the story of how the situation [ ]. Mervyn Dymally: Why was I called in? Because in the Senate the Lieutenant Governor is President of the Senate, and he is the only one that can break a tie. So it was 20-20. From the time they got stuck in the Senate to my arrival, my office had received approximately 5,000 votes to vote no. Jon Rubin: Could you tell us what the issue was and how it was developed? Mervyn Dymally: Well, it was a Willie Brown bill. I don’t know if Willie was Speaker at that time, but it’s to decriminalize same-sex relationship, not marriage now, just relationship. Jon Rubin: And there was some controversy obviously. Mervyn Dymally: Yes, but in those days it wasn’t quite as bitter. Opposition accepted the defeat or the victory with class. Now it’s very personal, very ideological, very political, very partisan, very miserable.


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The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

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