How Arnold Schwarzenegger Helped George Takei Come Out

George Takei says he came out publicly as a gay man because he was furious at the then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for vetoing a bill that would have legalized gay marriage.

By Michileen Martin | Published

arnold schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently had something to do with George Takei coming out publicly as a gay man, though not through an inspirational speech or by showing his support. In a recent interview with The Stage, Takei says he came out in 2005 — at the age of 68 — because he was furious at Schwarzenegger for vetoing a bill that would have made same sex marriage legal in California.

Takei expressed a sense of betrayal toward Arnold Schwarzenegger when the then governor vetoed AB 849, which would have legalized gay marriage in California.

“Why did I come out when I did? Because Schwarzenegger presented himself as a movie star who had worked and was friends with gays and lesbians, many of whom voted for him, but then vetoed that bill. I was so angry that I spoke to the press for the first time as a gay man at the age of 68.”

-George Takei

George Takei said he waited until the Terminator star forced his hand for the sake of job security. “I learned at a young age that you couldn’t be an openly gay actor and hope to be employed,” Takei said. He added that he knows of “big Hollywood actors” who remain silent about being gay “to protect their careers.”

George Takei also admitted to The Stage that before Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto riled him into action, he’d felt crushing guilt for not speaking out.

“I was closeted for a long period of my career. I was silent during the AIDS crisis, which fills me with guilt, although I did write checks and checks to AIDS organizations.”

-George Takei

Takei has since become a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights and a pop culture icon. While his last live-action appearance as his signature character, Hikaru Sulu, was in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country he made a voice appearance as the character in the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek: Lower Decks

When Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 849, he gave the reasoning that the bill “simply adds confusion to a constitutional issue.” Two years later he once again stopped same-sex marriage from being legalized when he vetoed the Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act.

Though Arnold Schwarzenegger would later praise the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationally, for the rest of his time in office as governor, he made similar decisions that wouldn’t make LGBTQ rights supporters very happy. In 2008, for example, he vetoed a bill that would have created a state holiday dedicated to the late Harvey Milk. Two years later he vetoed a bill that would have required that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to consider gender identity when incarcerating prisoners.