How fickle are the masses.

Assembly Bill 205 is a piece of legislation written by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) in January of this year, which came to a vote in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on April 1. AB 205, if passed and signed into action, would extend marriage-like status in California to all same-sex couples who register as domestic partners, establishing rights and responsibilities that would rival the civil unions established by the Vermont Legislature on April 25, 2000.

When AB 205 came up to vote in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary early last month, the votes broke down in the following manner: nine ayes (all Democrats), four nos (all Republicans) and one abstain – by our very own Hannah-Beth Jackson. AB 205 will come up for vote on the Assembly floor toward the end of this month.

The hubbub, however, seems centered around Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson and her abstention from voting on the bill. Gay rights activists are up in arms over Jackson’s behavior, equating her abstention with a “no” vote and feeling that she’s turning her back on her constituents for political reasons.

Jackson, voted in for another term as assemblywoman for California’s 35th District during the fall 2002’s general election, has reached the end of her terms for assemblywoman. Word is Jackson has her eye on a U.S. Senate seat and plans to run during the election next year. Those critical of her non-vote seem to think Jackson is trying to appease conservatives in California in order to win over votes for the Senate seat. Gay rights activists, as well as members of the community, from Santa Barbara to our very own UCSB, have come out openly criticizing Jackson, writing letters, demanding answers and generally feeling stiffed.

Jackson claims that AB 205 has some very ambiguous sections which could come under legal attack in the future, undermining the advancements of the bill if enacted. Jackson also states that she plans to work with Goldberg in an attempt to make the language of AB 205 watertight before it hits the Asssembly floor.

So everyone else just needs to chill out.

Jackson has done a lot for the 35th District and California in general. She’s stood behind queers throughout the state in terms of voting on legislature, fiercely advocated for the rights of women and children and guarded the environment like a mother bear protecting her cubs.

With her history, it seems really unlikely that she’s started to do a political shuffle for the Senate next year. If there were ever a group that has a hard time letting go of a grudge, it’s conservatives. Accusing Jackson of trying to appease the right is just an easy way for gay rights activists to vent steam – it’s just a shame they’re venting on a person who doesn’t deserve it.

Contrary to what most of those who have their knickers in a bunch think, an abstention is in no way a “no” vote. For activists trying to get the world to see things in other than black and white issues, it’s an incredibly hypocritical connection to make. If there are problems with AB 205, then we should trust Jackson to do the right thing and work to fix the problems. Her past record demands at least that much.

If, for some strange reason, Jackson has played us all as fools, then we’ll see it when the vote comes to the Assembly floor. If Jackson votes no, then register your dissatisfaction when she runs for the Senate.

Run her up the flagpole then, not now.

California needs to expand its domestic partnership rights. It’s outrageous that same-sex couples are treated like second-class citizens because the rest of the nation feels it necessary to create a marriage club where only breeders can join.

But in order to get what we need, we have to be willing to trust the judgement of our allies, especially if they haven’t failed us in the past.

Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus opinion editor. This is the third to last column he will write. Ever.