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Posted on Wed, Sep. 07, 2005
Governor vows to veto gay marriage bill
By San Jose Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said this afternoon that he will veto the same-sex marriage bill passed by the California Legislature.
His press secretary, Margita Thompson, issued the following statement at just before 5:30 p.m.:
``In Governor Schwarzenegger's personal life and work in public service, he has considered no undertaking to be more noble than the cause of civil rights. He believes that gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship. He is proud that California provides the most rigorous protections in the nation for domestic partners.
``Five years ago the matter of same-sex marriage was placed before the people of California. The people voted and the issue is now before the courts.
``The Governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action -- which would be unconstitutional -- but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state. We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote. Out of respect for the will of the people, the Governor will veto AB 849.''
The Assembly's 41-35 vote -- the one-vote majority needed to pass the bill -- forced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the eve of a divisive November special election, into the awkward role of being the first U.S. governor to decide if gays can marry.
The bill would have rewritten the state's definition of marriage as between ``two persons,'' instead of as a union between ``a man and a woman.'' Schwarzenegger had 30 days to sign or veto the bill. If he had taken no action, the bill would have become law, and California would have become the second state behind Massachusetts to legally sanction same-sex marriage and the first to do so through legislation, not a court order.
Peter Ragone, a spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose decision to defiantly issue marriage certificates helped spur the national debate, said the mayor applauded the Assembly's decision but suggested Schwarzenegger would be a tougher sell: ``He has been hard to pin down on this one.''
Indeed, the vote forced Schwarzenegger into taking a stand on one of the most contentious issues in modern-day politics on the eve of his planned November special election.
To continue to receive the backing of deep-pocketed Republican donors and to further his political career, many political analysts said Schwarzenegger had to veto the bill.
Others thought it wasn't a given Schwarzenegger would veto it. He has made contradictory remarks on the topic, they noted, and Schwarzenegger's personal views on gay marriage have always remained somewhat of a mystery.
In an interview with Jay Leno on ``The Tonight Show With Jay Leno'' last year, the governor said he would be ``fine'' with gay marriage. At other times, Schwarzenegger has said he opposes gay marriage and supports the status quo: the state's current domestic partnership laws, which grant same sex couples many, but not all, of the rights and obligations of married couples.
"The governor believes that the people spoke when they voted in Proposition 22,'' which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, said his spokeswoman, Thompson, on Tuesday. ``It's now before the courts, which is where the governor believes it belongs.''
The Assembly's decision followed on a wave of legislative support for gay marriage that began last week when the state Senate became the nation's first legislative body to approve it. Still, Tuesday's vote was unexpected by many. The Assembly had rejected the same measure in June.
``I'm stunned,'' said Patrick Soricone, executive director of the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, who watched the debate over the Internet.
``We feel extraordinary,'' said Geoff Kors, executive director of the gay rights lobbying group Equality California, said after the vote. ``It's overwhelming to know that today will be looked back upon in history as the turning point in the struggle for marriage equality.''
Others, though, felt the Legislature's decision did not reflect the voters of California, who in 2000 passed a statewide initiative that stated marriage is between a man and a woman.
``California's Legislature today widened the chasm that separates the people from the politicians by voting to legalize same-sex marriage,'' said state Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim, ``and pushing an extreme agenda that does not address the very serious concerns of people from all walks of life in our state.''
In the Capitol, the Assembly chambers erupted with applause after the vote and bill author Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, began hugging friends and colleagues on the floor.
The Assembly's vote followed an intense weekend of lobbying in Sacramento, during which three moderate Democrats who represent districts with heavy Latino or Catholic constituencies were persuaded to support it. In June, all three had abstained.
On Tuesday night, however, Leno said he was forever indebted to those who supported the measure, despite the political risks.
``It was a thing of beauty on the floor,'' Leno said. ``To see so many colleagues standing up and speaking about the importance of civil rights and dignity and respect for all of our citizens, all of our families, all of our children.''
Assembly Republicans almost uniformly opposed the measure, including Guy Houston of Livermore, who was the only Bay Area legislator who didn't support the bill. Two Democrats and one Republican abstained.
Mercury News reporters Kate Folmar, Laura Kurtzman, Andrew LaMar and MaryAnne Ostrom contributed to this report. Contact Aaron C. Davis at email@example.com or (916) 325-4315.
Schwarzenegger to veto same-sex marriage bill
Thursday, September 8, 2005 Posted: 0915 GMT
SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday he will veto a bill that would have made California the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through its elected lawmakers.
Schwarzenegger said the legislation, approved Tuesday by lawmakers, would conflict with the intent of voters when they approved an initiative five years ago. Proposition 22 was placed on the ballot to prevent California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
"We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote," the governor's press secretary, Margita Thompson, said in a statement. "Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto (the bill)."
Proposition 22 stated that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The bill to be vetoed by Schwarzenegger would have defined marriage as a civil contract between "two persons."
In Massachusetts, recognition of gay marriages came through a court ruling.
Massachusetts voters could get the chance to change that. A proposed 2008 ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage passed a key hurdle Wednesday when the state attorney general ruled it could be permitted if supporters gathered enough signatures. A separate proposal to ban gay marriage but create civil unions faces a vote in the Legislature next week. If approved, it would go on the ballot in 2006.
In California, gay rights advocates accused Schwarzenegger of betraying the bipartisan ideals that helped get him elected in the 2003 recall.
"Clearly he's pandering to an extreme right wing, which was not how he got elected," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, one of the bill's sponsors. "He got elected with record numbers of lesbian and gay voters who had not previously voted for a Republican, and he sold us out."
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said Schwarzenegger missed "a golden opportunity to stand on history and do something that was noble and appropriate."
Newsom, a Democrat, sanctioned same-sex marriages in the city in 2004, but the state Supreme Court later voided the unions.
"It disappoints me greatly, and it will disappoint literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans, not to mention millions of people across the country," Newsom said.
The governor has until Oct. 9 to issue the veto.
Despite his promise to do so, Schwarzenegger "believes gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship," Thompson's statement said. "He is proud that California provides the most rigorous protections in the nation for domestic partners."
The Republican governor had indicated previously that he would veto the bill, saying the debate over same-sex marriage should be decided by voters or the courts.
A state appeals court is considering appeals of a lower court ruling earlier this year that overturned Proposition 22 and a 1978 law that first formally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriages are planning ballot measures similar to that proposed in Massachusetts to ban gay marriage in the state Constitution.
Schwarzenegger's announcement dampened a celebratory mood among the bill's supporters, who only the night before cheered, hugged and kissed as the state Assembly narrowly sent the bill to the governor's desk.
Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz had called bans on gay marriage "the last frontier of bigotry and discrimination."
The bill passed the Legislature through the persistence of its author, Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat and one of six openly gay members in the California Legislature.
Leno's original bill failed in the Assembly by four votes in June, but he linked it to another bill in the Senate and it won approval last week. The Assembly passed it Tuesday by a bare majority, with the winning margin provided by four Democrats who didn't vote on the measure in June.
Leno said he requested a meeting with the governor Wednesday to argue his case but said Schwarzenegger's office did not respond.
"The Legislature has done the hard work of picking up the issue of the day, holding public hearings, having public debate and making a decision," Leno said. "(A veto) would be an enormous disregard for the deliberation of both houses and the millions of people who wish him to sign the bill."
The vote that sent the bill to the governor made the California Legislature the first legislative body in the country to approve of same-sex marriage. As in Massachusetts, civil unions in Vermont were granted through court rulings.
"I'm encouraged that the governor is going to stop the runaway Legislature, and he's going to represent the people," said Karen England of the Capitol Resource Institute, a Sacramento group that lobbied against the bill.
"I think Assembly member Leno wanted to rally everyone on his side and he's done exactly the opposite. He's forced his agenda on the rest of us," she said. "But in California the votes of the people do matter."