TV & Radio
米カリフォルニア州議会上院、同性婚合法化法案可決 下院へ 3のつづき
GEORGE SKELTON / CAPITOL JOURNAL
Debate Brings Clarity to Gay Marriage Issue
September 5, 2005 - Los Angeles Times
The accepted wisdom in the Capitol has always been that legislative floor speeches never change votes. Maybe. But they do change views.
For example, a 90-minute debate Thursday in the state Senate on a bill to allow same-sex marriages: It changed my view.
Actually, it cleared up my muddled view, which really began shifting eight years ago during a chat at the back of the Senate chamber with then-President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer.
How do you feel about gay marriage? I asked.
"You know," he replied, "people have so many problems and life's so short, if letting gays 'marry' gives them some joy and happiness, why not? I say let them do it."
Lockyer later got elected attorney general and now is dutifully defending in court the state's ban on same-sex marriages. But he hasn't changed his personal view.
It made sense to me, but I wasn't ready to go there yet. Certainly, homosexual couples should be entitled to all the protections and privileges of heterosexuals — call it a "civil union" or "domestic partnership," a civil right or plain fairness. But calling it a "marriage" could devalue the institution in some minds, especially young people's, I thought.
Until the Senate debate.
Probably the speech that firmly clicked me into a "yeah, why not?" mode was by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). He talked about marriage "reinforcing traditional values: accountability, monogamy, commitment, the rule of law … "
We should be encouraging that as a society, he asserted.
Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) followed up: "Marriage is a phenomenal institution…. The glue of our society…. By extending it, we strengthen it, not threaten it….
"The threat to marriage today is poverty, discrimination, lack of healthcare … domestic abuse, child abuse."
As the compelling debate continued, I kept thinking about what Lockyer had said — and the people suffering in hurricane hell, the American soldiers being blown up, the gas price gougers. And I wondered why anybody should worry about what we call two people living together in a loving relationship.
There was a lot of talk about God.
My god doesn't fret about homosexuality, but clearly many people believe that theirs does.
"I don't believe there's a member of this chamber who doesn't … know that [same-sex marriage] is not the right thing to do," said Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta). "I believe that knowledge comes from a higher power…. That higher power is also the higher power that created the institution of marriage."
Replied Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey): "I don't think anyone should claim God as being on their side in this debate…. We are not here to discuss what churches, synagogues … believe about this. We are here to discuss the laws of California."
The bill would not — could not — affect religious rules. Churches still could refuse to recognize a marriage. Catholics know all about that.
Another opposition argument was that marriage's main purpose is to reproduce.
Homosexuals have every right to enter into civil contracts, said Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), "but can't you see that marriage is a fundamentally different institution? Marriage institutionally exists in nature by which we propagate our species and inculcate our young with values and standards….
"Marriages exist to bring a new child into the world."
Well, not entirely. There's also companionship and love. Many happily married couples benefit society without ever propagating. We humans have evolved beyond a hitch-up-to-propagate species.
Two things in particular struck me about the debate.
• Only two of the 15 Republicans stood to make their case against same-sex marriage, although all but one voted against it. I kept waiting for more.
"This has been debated ad nauseam for years," Senate GOP Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine told me. "I thought the debate was too long. How many times can you say the same thing? It became like a revival."
Republicans also have learned to cool the rhetoric on social issues. In past gay rights debates, some have sounded kooky. Once, a lifelong rancher rambled on about gay heifers.
• Practically every female senator — 11 of 12 — rose to passionately support the bill. It showed the growing influence of women in an increasingly diverse Legislature.
"Women do understand discrimination," says Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who 11 years ago became the first openly homosexual legislator. She was the Senate shepherd for the bill, sponsored by gay Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
The bill barely passed, with 21 Democratic votes. It will be debated this week in the Assembly, where a similar measure was rejected in June.
Leno is short three votes. He's lobbying nervous lawmakers who plan to run next year for other offices and fear angering voters. It doesn't help that, even if the bill passes, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is virtually certain to veto the measure.
In 2000, 61% of Californians passed an initiative to recognize only heterosexual marriages. But opposition to same-sex marriage has been weakening. The latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows an even split, 46% to 46%, between voters who favor and oppose same-sex marriage.
Some people's views are changing, as I can attest.
And momentum from the Senate's becoming the first legislative body in America to approve same-sex marriage could change votes in the Assembly.
George Skelton writes Monday and Thursday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Politics May Rule Who Says 'I Do'
The aspirations of four key Democrats in the Assembly -- swing votes on same-sex marriage legislation -- may decide the fate of bill.
By Jordan Rau
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 5, 2005
SACRAMENTO — As the California Assembly prepares to take up gay marriage legislation as early as Tuesday, the measure's fate may rest not with lofty arguments about the centuries-old institution but with the political futures of a handful of wavering lawmakers.
All four Democrats whom advocates have identified as swing votes represent districts with many Latinos or African Americans — two groups that, because of their religious backgrounds, are among the most wary of broadening the definition of marriage to say it is a union of two people rather than of a man and a woman.
Making the consequences of their votes even more sensitive, all four lawmakers — Jerome Horton of Inglewood, Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino, Simon Salinas of Salinas and Tom Umberg of Anaheim — are in their final terms in the Assembly and eyeing higher offices.
This political reality has become a factor in determining votes since the advent of term limits, and other lawmakers and political consultants say it weighs heavily on this issue, one of the year's most controversial in Sacramento.
"Everyone who has indicated that they are still thinking about this has uniformly told me that if it were only a matter of conscience, of course they would be there, but that their own 2006 races are the issue," said Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), one of the measure's sponsors.
The California Senate on Thursday approved the bill, the first time a legislative body in the United States had endorsed gay marriage without being compelled by a court order.
Intense pressure from both sides now is focusing on the 80-member Assembly, where a handful of abstaining members led to the bill's narrow failure in June. Advocates say they need just three more votes to send the measure to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, although such a victory may be symbolic, given that the governor has signaled he would veto it.
Opposition groups are urging supporters to blanket pivotal lawmakers with calls and faxes. They say that lawmakers who vote for the measure, AB 849, are insulting the 61% of Californians who approved Proposition 22, which declared that California would recognize only marriages between heterosexual couples, in 2000.
"They thought they voted to preserve marriage and this wouldn't be allowed to take place," said Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, a Sacramento group that backed the proposition five years ago. "They're pretty frustrated and letting the representatives know."
Gay rights advocates have hired Christine Chavez-Delgado, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez and an organizer for the United Farm Workers of America, to help develop grass-roots support throughout the state. The farmworkers group endorsed the measure in late June, after the defeat in the Assembly.
Advocates are also trumpeting a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, released last week, showing registered voters split 46% to 46% on the topic.
They also note that two of the swing votes belong to Assembly members who are hoping to be elected in the fall to the seats of Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the measure. Kuehl distributed CDs with the taped Senate floor debate to the crucial Assembly members.
"Our base is incredibly engaged, and we will support the people who stand with us," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the statewide gay rights group that sponsored the bill. "Ultimately, and I think these candidates know it, the people who care passionately on this issue on the other side aren't voting for them."
But the undecided legislators — all of whom abstained last time — are hard sells because of their political ambitions.
"It would be one thing if they're running in San Francisco," but you've got [places] where the voters all overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant.
Negrete McLeod is facing a primary race against fellow Assembly member Joe Baca Jr. (D-Rialto) for the state Senate seat being vacated by Nell Soto (D-Pomona). Though Democratic, the San Bernardino district has many farmworkers and a strong Latino presence, and Baca voted against the gay marriage measure in June.
Advocates are trying to persuade Baca to vote for the measure if Negrete McLeod also does, so neither can use it against the other in the primary.
"I believe in the Constitution; it's justice for all. I believe everybody has rights," Negrete McLeod said Friday.
Asked how she will vote, she said, "I don't know. We'll see what happens on Tuesday."
Salinas is blunter about the political factors. He is weighing a challenge to Republican Sen. Jeff Denham, also of Salinas, a rural area east of Monterey on the edge of the conservative Central Valley. Salinas, who told The Times to "stay tuned" because he is "still considering" the measure, acknowledged the political benefits of opposition to the San Jose Mercury News.
"You have to ask, how does this vote impact my next election? Some will deny that, but we need to be open and honest," Salinas told the newspaper. "If I was thinking entirely politically, I would vote no because then I could show to my constituents that I was representing them more conservatively."
In a strong Democratic district where the primary race will determine the victor, Horton is locked in a tough fight for the Board of Equalization with fellow Assembly member Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park).
Chu supports the gay marriage bill and stands to garner the strong backing of gay rights groups. Hoffenblum said Horton cannot afford to alienate black ministers who can help turn out the African American vote. "He needs a heavy black vote, and I don't think he wants these black preachers going around saying it's a sin," Hoffenblum said.
Umberg is seeking the Orange County state Senate seat being vacated by Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana). The conservative blue-collar district has one of the narrowest Democratic majority margins in the state, and Republicans view it as among those they have the best chance of winning next year.
Not only does Umberg have to worry about a strong GOP challenge, he also may face a Democratic primary battle with former Assemblyman and now Orange County Supervisor Lou Correa, who was the key vote two years ago to approve civil unions. But Correa said he would not support the gay marriage proposal if he had to vote now.
"I at this point would probably vote no on that," said Correa, who has not decided whether he will seek Dunn's seat. "As an elected official, I represent my constituency, and I believe that's the belief of my constituency."
Gay rights advocates say they will put up a primary challenge to Umberg if he does not support the measure. Advocates also say that Umberg is not in a strong position to join with those arguing to "preserve the sanctity of traditional marriage," given that he admitted earlier this year to an extramarital affair.
"I try not to be too personal in my assessment," Kuehl said, "but certainly people who live in glass houses shouldn't deny other people houses."
Umberg said he has sought spiritual guidance and had family discussions to resolve how he should vote. "I think it's clear that both sides are pulling out all the stops," he said. "The ultimate decision will just be a matter of conscience, and this is not something that's dictated by politics."
Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist, said lawmakers' votes against gay marriage may also come back to haunt them in elections beyond next year.
"In the long term, it can affect whether they face a primary challenge for some other office," he said.
Though advocates consider this the most important civil rights issue in a generation, there is no unanimity among Democrats that moving forcefully on is a smart play for the party or the issue, especially given that opponents are readying initiatives for the ballot next year that would alter the state Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and could roll back domestic partner laws.
Some Democrats are mindful of the criticism that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's authorization of gay unions may have helped President Bush win reelection. And Schwarzenegger has sent strong signals that he would veto it even if the measure passes.
"Some people feel it's going to backfire if the Democrats push too hard," said the Assembly Democratic leader, Dario Frommer of Glendale.
But Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the measure's primary sponsor, is insistent that the vote be held next week. For lawmakers on the cusp, taking a stand is dangerous, but continuing to stay neutral is also a risky venture, people in both parties say.
"Political abstention is a worse position than taking a position," said the Assembly Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. "On this issue, people have strong opinions about on both sides. I don't think they elected officials to vote just on the easy ones."
Posted on Sun, Sep. 04, 2005
Legislature reflects state's schizophrenia on gay marriage
SAN FRANCISCO - Last week's state Senate vote seeking to legalize gay marriage is the latest example of the political schizophrenia that has come to define the issue in the nation's most populous state.
Since 1999, when lawmakers established a registry of same-sex couples, California has been in the vanguard of extending to gay and lesbian partners nearly all the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. But for all the state's live-and-let-live social tolerance, voters have balked at granting gay couples the right to marry.
In 2000, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 22, which strictly defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. It was intended to prohibit California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Just three years later, then-Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, signed into law one of the nation's most sweeping laws recognizing domestic partner rights. It granted registered couples virtually every spousal right available under state law except the ability to file joint income taxes.
And in February 2004, the state became the focus of the gay-marriage movement. Citing the equal protection clause of the state Constitution, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered marriage licenses to be granted to same-sex couples, setting off a monthlong wedding spree. The state Supreme Court ordered an immediate halt to the marriages a month later and eventually voided them.
A statewide Field Poll taken as gays lined up to be married in San Francisco City Hall found that half the state's voters said they disapproved of gay marriage while about 44 percent approved. A large majority said they disapproved of Newsom's actions.
The move generated considerable backlash and was blamed by many Democrats for propelling conservatives to the polls in the 2004 presidential election.
Events in the Legislature and California's courts, where both sides are arguing over whether a same-sex marriage ban violates the state's Constitution, are again motivating opponents into action.
Two groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage hope to place separate initiatives on the June 2006 ballot, both of which would invalidate domestic partnerships and make gay marriage illegal in the state. They also want to enshrine the one-man, one-woman marriage definition in the state Constitution.
The focus this week will be on the state Assembly, which is set to vote Tuesday on whether to send the gay marriage bill approved in the Senate to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
If it does, the action would be a prime example of the state's to-be-or-not-to-be approach to same-sex marriage. The Assembly already defeated the same measure earlier this year.
The bill, by Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, fell four votes short in the Assembly in June. Refusing to give up, Leno then amended it to a bill in the Senate. Supporters hope the Senate's 21-15 vote last week emboldens four Democrats to switch in the Assembly.
Approval in the lower house would send the bill to Schwarzenegger, who in some ways embodies California's conflicted emotions about gay marriage.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support for domestic partnerships and has had a generally pro-gay rights record since taking office.
Last year, he approved a law requiring health insurance companies to extend to gay partners the same benefits they offer to unmarried heterosexual couples. He also allowed the sale of clean needles to slow the spread of AIDS, and he approved an expansion of the state's hate-crimes law to protect transvestites.
But he also has said he prefers the gay-marriage issue to be settled by the courts or popular vote. No matter happens this week in the Legislature, that appears to be exactly how it will be decided.
Beth Fouhy has been covering national politics since 1988.