"Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal City Editor Leon Worden. The half-hour program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
This week's newsmakers are Scott Edwards and Al Carbonara, who were officially married in Canada over the summer. The following interview was conducted Oct. 9.
Signal: When was the wedding day, and why in Canada?
Edwards: Canada was the only place in this continent where you can have a same-sex marriage, and Al just reminded me it was Aug. 7.
Signal: Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada?
Edwards: Yes, in Ontario and British Columbia, and soon in the whole country.
Signal: Is it recognized in California?
Carbonara: Not yet. It should be, but as far as we know, there are still some legal ramifications and ... we're not real sure what's going to happen. The United States recognizes heterosexual marriages from Canada, so if a straight couple goes to Canada and comes across the border, they're automatically married here. But we don't know yet what's really going to happen.
Signal: How many countries sanction same-sex marriage?
(Both): Three, now. Denmark, Netherlands and Canada.
Signal: How long have you been together?
Edwards: Since 1988.
Signal: When did you move to the Santa Clarita Valley?
Edwards: I lived here already. I moved here in 1981.
Carbonara: I lived in Long Beach when we met. We got together soon after that and decided that we wanted to have a committed relationship. Our jobs were at opposite ends of Los Angeles County. I was working in Carson and Scott was working up here. So we moved halfway and moved to Glendale and lived there for two years.
Signal: If you've been living together all this time, and as far as you're concerned, you're committed to each other, why take that extra step of legal marriage?
Edwards: Well, we wanted to be married for the same reasons heterosexual couples want to be married. It's the formal commitment, it's a legal contract that protects you and of course, our protections are not all that secure compared to a heterosexual couple. But we promise to stay with each other through good and bad and health and illness, so it was just the same as other people's reasons for getting married.
Carbonara: We just had to go a little farther to do it.
Signal: We ran a story in The Signal about your wedding reception. What made the two of you think it was newsworthy, if indeed you did?
Edwards: Well, as far as we knew, we're the first couple from Santa Clarita to go to Canada to get married, and we're interested in showing people an example of a committed same-sex marriage, and maybe showing young gay people that there is a future of stability for them.
Carbonara: I actually had written a note to (Signal Editor) Tim Whyte to tell him I appreciated the fact that he ran the story, in the first place. And the fact that he put us on the front page, above the fold, was pretty courageous. ... I told him that I thought that if he helped one gay or lesbian teen or young person dealing with their sexuality, then he did the right thing.
Signal: The old question: Is homosexuality a decision?
Carbonara: No. Absolutely not. Who would decide such a thing? Think about that. Who would decide, when I came of age, let's say, to make such a decision, my decision was to either be attracted to women, girls, or to be attracted to boys. And so I decided to be attracted to boys why? So I could be in fear of getting beat up at school? So that I could alienate my family, possibly? So that I wouldn't have job protection when I got older? List all the reasons not to choose such a thing. Why would anyone make that choice?
Signal: You're both in your 40s; has either of you been married before?
Edwards: We were the first for each other.
Signal: When, then, did you learn you were gay?
Edwards: I think most young men, at least, know early in life, from people I've talked to. There's just no doubt. It's the same reason you know you're a heterosexual as a young person. It's just a completely different orientation toward who you're interested in romantically.
Carbonara: There's no doubt in my mind that I was born gay, because I just never felt any differently. I think that the same feelings that heterosexual boys and girls go through, we go through those same feelings, only the attraction is toward the same sex. I think some people struggle with it, and that might be partly due to societal pressures, but I think part of it is because sexuality is a complex thing. I don't think any two people are alike at all. We all deal with it at different times and on different levels.
Signal: What is the appropriate way for a parent to deal with a child who may be homosexual?
Edwards: It's helpful that parents recognize that there's a possibility. That makes all the difference in the world for the young person. If the parents are having trouble with the possibility, there's a group called PFLAG, which has an active chapter in Santa Clarita, it's in the phone book, that helps. It meets once a month.
Carbonara: And on the Internet, too. If you just go to www.pflag.com, you'll reach the national headquarters. (PFLAG) stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It's a good support group. Anybody who's dealing with this, both gays and lesbians who are dealing with coming-out issues, or parents, friends, brothers, sisters it's a really good support group.
Signal: There's also the Gay and Lesbian Association of Santa Clarita; are you involved in that?
Edwards: Yes, we've been officers in GLASC. Our experience with that goes back 12 (or) 13 years.
Signal: What are the goals of that organization?
Edwards: That is to allow gay and lesbian people a sense of community, things to do together, places to meet, and also to work to secure our civil rights.
Signal: How many members are there, and how big is the gay population in the Santa Clarita Valley?
Edwards: It's somewhere between 6 and 10 percent. (Those are) the numbers that you see in all the surveys.
Signal: Even here in conservative Santa Clarita?
Edwards: Especially. Because a lot of same-sex couples come here to buy homes because they're affordable and it's a nice place to live.
Signal: You mean they buy a home because it's affordable, just like heterosexuals do?
Edwards: Yes, and we make great neighbors, too.
Carbonara: In fact our neighbors call and say, we love having you guys, because your house is well kept. There was a study ... not so long ago, it was shortly after the 2000 Census, and it showed that in this area, there are a lot of gay and lesbian couples who own homes. I don't remember what the percentage was, but it was pretty high. It was a lot higher than you might think.
Edwards: GLASC usually has around 200 members, and half of them are couples and half are singles.
Signal: If you say you're the first same-sex couple from this valley to get officially married, are there gay people who are participating in other types of ceremonies here?
Carbonara: Yes. In fact we did the same thing. People have holy unions, they call them, where you can go to a church there are some churches out there that will perform holy unions, a commitment ceremony. We did ours through the Metropolitan Community Church, which is a church that was founded by a gay man, and we did that in 1990. So we've had quite a few marriage ceremonies. ... A lot of times, people will get together and have an informal gathering where they'll exchange some sort of vows.
Signal: Did the two of you experience any backlash after the story appeared in The Signal?
Carbonara: Not at all. In fact, on the contrary, we were recognized on the street. We were driving down McBean Parkway, sitting at a red light, and there's a guy sitting in the van next to us. He's pointing to us to roll down the window, so I thought he probably wants directions or something. (I) rolled down the window and he yells, "Congratulations," and starts screaming at us. Our friends were in the back seat, laughing. We couldn't' believe it. And then his wife was sitting in the passenger seat; she's looking over at us like she'd just seen two celebrities. It was so funny.
Edwards: I can tell you, I had 100-percent positive response at work. Fortunately, people only say nice things to your face, I guess. But I came in that morning and bought the last copy of The Signal. Apparently if your coworker's picture is on the cover, you buy the newspaper, and I had between 30 and 40 people call or e-mail or visit my office to congratulate us. Neighbors have been great, too very thoughtful gifts and cards.
Signal: Where do you work?
Edwards: I work at HR Textron, since 1981. I'm a program manager on the space shuttle program.
Carbonara: And I teach music at a (college) in Anaheim.
Signal: Is your homosexuality ever a factor at the office? Are you the gay manager, or are you the manager?
Edwards: Well, unfortunately, there has been a lot of homophobia in the workplace in California. Having worked 20-something years, I've seen a steady improvement. It used to be, a week wouldn't go by where ... you would hear a negative comment. But companies have made quite an effort, and fortunately in California there's a law that protects your employee rights. You can't be fired for being gay.
I think being in the newspaper really brings the news to more people and gets the office grapevine working faster than it ever had before. And so maybe I am now.
Carbonara: I think that when you go into work, are you the straight manager or are you the gay manager doesn't really matter. The point is that if you want to have a relationship with your coworkers, you have a right to say what you do with your husband or wife, or your spouse. People do that. If you want to socialize outside of work, nobody should be excluded from that. I think that it's just a matter of people's awareness being raised, like Scott said, over the years. We've seen a lot of improvement as far as consciousness raising.
Signal: By agreeing to be the subject of a news story, was there something you hoped to accomplish?
Edwards: Everything being equal, I'd just as soon not be in the newspaper, not on the front page. But we are very much interested in equal rights for gay and lesbian people, and we're interested that young people growing up have a more supportive environment. We're concerned about a higher suicide rate among gay teenagers, and a high likelihood of being harassed at school. The most important point for equality, I think, is the equal marriage rights, and we did want to let people know that here's a same-sex couple that cared enough to go to this much work to be married.
Carbonara: In fact, my father was going to go on the honeymoon with us, but he (couldn't because) he had some health problems. But it made me think, when you talked about being on the front page, actually I really was kind of reluctant to do the story because I was a little worried about what might happen and my father was, too, which made me think of him people coming to our house, throwing rocks through the window. You never know what's going to happen, especially in an area where we got the kinds of letters, responses in The Signal you just never know what's going to happen. That worried me a little bit.
Signal: Looking at voter registration, Santa Clarita is the single most Republican city in Los Angeles County. Gay issues are generally identified with the Democratic Party. How did you make the decision to live in Santa Clarita, as opposed to an area where homosexuality is more readily accepted by a greater percentage of the population?
Edwards: Like a lot of people, you don't have that much choice about where you want to live if you've got the job you like, and then once you buy a house plus, there is a big, supportive community in Santa Clarita. You meet people you know everywhere. The Democratic Party has been much more supportive of gay rights, equality, but there's a big percentage of Republicans and independents who have a real sense of fair play and believe everybody is entitled to live and work where they want to and lead their lives without interference.
There's a segment of extremists in a lot of the religious right that seem determined to attack us and attack our rights, and one of the big embarrassments about living in Santa Clarita is having Pete Knight as a representative in the Legislature.
Signal: Pete Knight's initiative, Proposition 22, declared "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the state of California." It passed in 2000 with 61 percent of the vote. More recently, a Field Poll indicated that 72 percent of the public supported the expanded domestic partner benefits that former Gov. Gray Davis signed into law in September. Now what is Pete Knight proposing?
Edwards: He wants to get a proposition on the ballot, maybe as soon as March, to repeal the law that was just passed that gave gay and lesbian couples these limited rights.
Carbonara: The funny thing about Prop. 22, people seem to object to the word "marriage." Even at that time, I think (a majority of voters) said domestic partnerships or civil unions were acceptable, but they just didn't want to use the word "marriage." I find that kind of strange, but they want the word to themselves. They don't want to share that. That seems to be the issue.
Signal: Gray Davis was an assemblyman from West Hollywood; Arnold Schwarzenegger is a moderate Republican who evidently supports gay rights. What kind of changes do you expect to see between the Davis and Schwarzenegger administrations?
Edwards: Well, we wouldn't expect to see as much progress in the next few years, but we're hopeful that there won't be any backsliding. We would hope that Schwarzenegger would be opposed to the type of proposition that Pete Knight is putting forward, for one thing. Talk about better things to spend your time and money on, than to attack the legal rights that gay and lesbian families have now.
Carbonara: I always thought that laws were meant to protect people, and that we shouldn't be legislating against Californians, especially those of us who work hard (and) pay our taxes just like everybody else. We're productive people. We're not doing anything to hurt the community in any way. In fact ... we work at a camp, it's called Operation Read ... and we tutor, we help kids learn how to read. They're high school age.
Signal: At the local probation camps?
Carbonara: Yes. Camp Scott and Camp Scudder.
Edwards: It's a really interesting volunteer activity, and we need more volunteers, if anyone is interested. You know, being in the kind of world we are, living in Santa Clarita and working here is a different slice of life than you'll find if you work as a tutor in a place like that.
One thing I wanted to challenge you on, as a reporter: Pete Knight and his friends would always argue that same-sex marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage. Being a business major, I want to see, what is the actual cause and effect that he's talking about? Is there going to be a higher divorce rate among heterosexuals? More children being abandoned, or domestic violence? That's the big question: How can anybody say that our getting married would affect our neighbors' marriages? Now, if there is a sudden rash of divorces in Saugus, well, I'll have to rethink my position. But I don't think there will be.
Signal: Do you have any plans to adopt? Are you interested in being parents?
Carbonara: Maybe 30 years ago...
Edwards: I think I'm too old to start a family...
Carbonara: I've never had any real desire to have children, which I guess is a good thing. Although we could adopt, I've just never really thought much about it.
Edwards: If life had been different, I would have liked to have had children, but I think it comes a point where you realize it's not practical, at a certain age, and with the life you have. But I really would have liked to have been a grandparent. I think I'll miss that.
Signal: The domestic partner registry was established in 1999, and some 22,000 people have signed up to date. You signed up, right?
Carbonara: Yes, probably the first day it came out.
Signal: What does that do for you?
Carbonara: When it was originally set up, the whole idea was to start compiling a registry, or a list, of people who wanted to make these kinds of commitments to one another, and it preceded all of these laws that they have enacted since. In other words, every time one of these laws is passed, it automatically affects those who signed up for the registry back in '99. ... I think everyone who signed up knew that eventually these laws would be enacted, and that by signing up and getting we actually got a certificate from the state that it would entitle us to any laws that came up in the future, any rights that were granted.
Signal: What do you think about the television show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?"
Edwards: I didn't find it all that interesting.
Carbonara: We don't even watch it.
Edwards: I'm amused that people get a kick out of it, but I don't have that much style, and no decorating talent, so it just makes me feel left out.
Carbonara: We are so boring, I have friends who call all the time and want to know what's going on in Hollywood and the gay world, and we're so boring, I can't tell them.
See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.