Meg Whitman's Big Gay Jolt

We've always said Meg Whitman flip-flopping on gay rights would come back to haunt the former eBay CEO. And now, amid her campaign for California governor, it has. Whitman's reaction? Flip-flop again.

Whitman's support for a 2008 anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative became a hot topic at a recent gathering of high-profile Silicon Valley women, the sort of crowd from whom Whitman would eventually like to raise money. The conversation inevitably turned to Whitman's gay marriage stance. One guest — we hear it was All Things D editor Kara Swisher, a longtime Wall Street Journal tech reporter, but haven't been able to confirm with Swisher — grilled the Republican candidate on why her lesbian family should be second class:

'I have children who are unprotected... I pay taxes just like you. Why do you get more rights than I do?' "

In the past, Whitman's campaign spokesman has parried questions like these, emphasizing Whitman's support for civil unions. On her own, Whitman took things a step further, her interrogator told the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Whitman said, 'You know, I just wish we could have one term for everything: civil unions,' I said, 'Bingo, sold, I'll take it.' "

But Whitman quickly backed down from the idea of making civil unions the sole relationship recognized by the state. According to her questioner, Whitman

"wouldn't say anything. ... She wouldn't say yes. ... She would not say, 'OK, I will do that.' " ([The Chronicle's] own efforts to get confirmation from Whitman's campaign team, in preparation for this item, failed. Calls were not returned).

At eBay, Whitman took on the image of a tolerant social liberal; after cozying up to Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain in 2008 she came out against gay marriage. At a gathering in socially liberal Northern California, she said the government should get out of the marriage business; when the San Francisco Chronicle called to confirm, she couldn't be pinned down.

With a consistent statement on gay marriage, Whitman could cultivate California's social conservatives or its social liberal, and maybe win over enough moderates to become governor. With all this flip flopping, though, she just looks as confused as the trainwreck political party she's attached herself too, rather than one of its rising stars.

[SF Chronicle]