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A day after Assembly’s OK, Schwarzenegger pledges to kill same-sex marriage bill
GOVERNOR'S STAND: Decision to honor Prop. 22 sure to please conservative core
- John Wildermuth, Lynda Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle Political Writers
Thursday, September 8, 2005
Sacramento -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, under growing pressure from his conservative supporters, promised Wednesday to veto the gay-marriage bill passed less than a day earlier by the Democrat-led Legislature.
The Legislature's action trampled over Proposition 22, an initiative passed overwhelmingly in 2000 that banned same-sex marriage in California, said a spokeswoman for the governor.
"The governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action -- which would be unconstitutional -- but by a court decision or another vote of the people,'' said Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's press secretary. "We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails the vote. Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto AB849.''
Democrats said they weren't surprised by Schwarzenegger's announcement but were disappointed, especially by the speed of the decision.
"For a man who claims rather grandiosely to be 'following the will of the people' when he doesn't even allow the people to express his will to them as he does with every other bill is a deep disappointment to me," said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.
Condemnation from gay and lesbian rights activists was swift.
"Who's the girly man now?" said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "... Real courage and real leadership and real strength and real protection of those who are marginalized by the law should have come at hands of a governor who prides himself in his strength of leadership and his boldness."
While Schwarzenegger had hinted he would veto the bill, Wednesday's abrupt early evening announcement came as a surprise. "I'm not going to talk about that at all today,'' the governor said when he was asked about a possible veto at a morning meeting with Salvation Army volunteers in Sacramento.
At the same Sacramento stop, Thompson told reporters there was no hurry to make a decision on the bill. It would be handled the same as any other bill sent to the governor, she added.
But outside the Salvation Army warehouse, Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families talked about how important the bill was to the conservatives who recent polls show have become Schwarzenegger's strongest supporters.
"If the governor is going to keep his word and be the people's governor, he has to veto AB849,'' he said.
Schwarzenegger needs something to fire up his supporters heading into the Nov. 8 special election. With both his "Live Within Our Means" budget initiative and reapportionment revamp slipping in the polls, the governor can't afford to have any Republicans stay away on election day.
Conservative leaders such as Traditional Values Coalition lobbyist Benjamin Lopez already have suggested that if Schwarzenegger didn't veto the same-sex marriage bill, "many conservatives will stay home in protest."
By quickly promising the veto and accusing the Legislature of ignoring the wishes of Californians, Schwarzenegger could quickly find himself with plenty of supporters. While a Field Poll last week put the governor's approval rating at a record low of 36 percent, California voters were even less enamored with the Legislature, knocking its rating down to 27 percent.
"The governor can point out that he's the one person in Sacramento who's responding to what people said they wanted in a statewide election,'' said Kevin Spillane, a GOP consultant. "He can also talk about how the Legislature is more interested in same-sex marriage and driver's licenses for illegal aliens than it is in the meat-and-potato issues that affect the life of each and every Californian.''
It's a stand that could play well not only with Republicans but also with moderate Democrats and independents still unhappy at the idea of same-sex marriage and now angry that the Legislature has pushed aside their vote.
But Democrats are warning the governor that five years have made a big difference in the way Californians view same-sex marriage.
Two months before voters passed Prop. 22, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that likely voters favored a ban on same-sex marriage by 57 to 38 percent. In a poll taken last month by the same group, likely voters were split evenly on the question, 46 to 46 percent, although nearly 70 percent of Republican voters continued to disapprove.
"The issue has become more partisan, but that's a pretty major shift in public opinion,'' said Mark Baldassare, the poll's director. "If it came to a vote today, it could be a very close election.''
Schwarzenegger can win back moderates because "it's a chance for him to make history and stand up for equality,'' said Gloria Nieto, a member of the Democratic National Committee's gay and lesbian caucus and executive director of the Lyon-Martin Women's Health clinic in San Francisco.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he wasn't surprised at Schwarzenegger's announcement, but he said the governor had missed a "rare and unique" chance.
"He missed a golden opportunity to stand on history and do what is noble and right," he said.
Democrats pledged to continue battling until Schwarzenegger actually signed the veto message.
Kuehl said supporters, including those in Hollywood, would continue to put pressure on the governor.
"There will be people he calls his friends who will call and try to influence him," she said. "A lot of people in the industry know this is the right thing to do and understand there is no reason loving couples shouldn't be able to be married in the state."
Regardless of what happens now, the fight for same-sex marriage is not over, added Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the author of AB849.
"The more the public becomes familiar with the issue, they move in our direction," he said.
Chronicle staff writers Carla Marinucci, Patrick Hoge and Wyatt Buchanan contributed to this report. E-mail the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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A day after Assembly’s OK, Schwarzenegger pledges to kill same-sex marriage bill
GAY MARRIAGE: Despite impending veto, it's been momentous year in struggle for rights
- Wyatt Buchanan, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2005
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement Wednesday that he will veto the Legislature's historic same-sex marriage bill caps a momentous year in gay and lesbian rights.
Yet the year has been decidedly mixed.
California Supreme Court decisions supported the rights of gay domestic partners, two foreign countries approved same-sex marriage, state legislatures across the United States passed civil union and nondiscrimination laws, and state and federal courts recognized a variety of gay rights. A survey two weeks ago found California voters evenly split on same-sex marriage for the first time in history -- 46 percent each way -- according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
"There has been some definite shifting of ground on this issue," said Mark Baldassare, director of research for the institute. In 2000, three months before 62 percent of California voters approved limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples with Proposition 22, the same survey found 55 percent of Californians opposed to same-sex marriage.
But Schwarzenegger had for days been signaling his ambivalence on the gay marriage bill. Earlier Wednesday, he also vetoed a bill that would have prohibited political candidates who agree to follow the state's Code of Fair Campaign Practices from using antigay messages in their campaigns.
And last November, 11 states passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Activists now have targeted California, Texas and Florida with similar ballot measures. The two initiatives heading for California's June 2006 ballot would strip from state law any recognition for personal relationships other than heterosexual marriage.
This summer's gay rights milestones included these:
June 30: Spain's parliament legalized same-sex marriage in the face of huge protests in the streets of Madrid organized by the Roman Catholic Church, making Spain the third country to give gays and lesbians that right, following Belgium and the Netherlands.
July 4: Four-fifths of delegates to the United Church of Christ national conference voted to recognize same-sex marriage; it was the first major Christian denomination to do so.
July 20: Canada's parliament legalized same-sex marriage.
July 29: The California Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the state's domestic partnership law, which in January gave registered same-sex couples many of the rights of married couples.
Aug. 22: The California Supreme Court ruled in three cases that gays and lesbians who are nonbiological parents have the same custody and child-support rights as nonbiological heterosexuals. On Aug. 2, the court had ruled that businesses must treat registered domestic partners like married couples.
"We are seeing a very intense period of time when gay and lesbian issues are being talked about and thought about greatly," said Seth Kilbourn, who is directing the Marriage Project for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., the nation's largest gay rights organization.
Kilbourn said he had seen the tide turn in 2003, when the Canadian province of Ontario legalized same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned anti-sodomy laws nationwide, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the state's constitution.
He also hailed the Illinois Legislature's passage in January of a workplace nondiscrimination law regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, the Connecticut Legislature's approval in April of a civil union law that goes into effect next month and a federal court ruling in May overturning Nebraska's voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
In California, two other gay rights measures passed through the statehouse this session without an outcry. One, which remains on the governor's desk, would bar businesses from discriminating against same-sex couples. The other, a resolution, urges the federal government to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
And a bill that would protect pension benefits for same-sex partners awaits a vote from the state Senate this week.
"This will be the most successful session we've ever had in the Legislature," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California.
On the horizon, Washington state's Supreme Court is to rule within weeks on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. And San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer's ruling calling opposite-sex-only marriage unconstitutional is still being appealed.
E-mail Wyatt Buchanan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Governor 'stabbed us in the back'
- Wyatt Buchanan
Thursday, September 8, 2005 - San Francisco Chronicle
Same-sex marriage supporters gathered Wednesday evening at the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Ceremony for a celebration of the state Assembly's approval Tuesday of the gay marriage bill.
But just as they were about to pop the champagne corks and slice a two-tiered wedding cake, word spread about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's planned veto, and the event turned into a protest rally.
"This guy ran as someone who was a different and fair politician, and he stabbed us in the back," said Thom Lynch, executive director of the center, who was unloading a crate of champagne when he heard of Schwarzenegger's veto decision.
The crowd of about 50 quickly made signs and marched along Market Street to Harvey Milk Plaza at Castro Street, chanting "Shame on Arnold."
"I'm disappointed that for even one day we were not able to celebrate this achievement," San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty told the crowd.
"It's like my marriage has been taken away. That's happened twice now," said Stuart Gaffney, who married his partner of 18 years, John Lewis, in San Francisco in February 2004. Gaffney and Lewis, among about 4,000 couples married that winter, wore tuxedos and carried an unopened bottle of champagne during Wednesday's march.
"We can't open it today," Lewis said. "The governor really let us down today."
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Governor's hands were tied in gay marriage veto
NEWS ANALYSIS: Opponents of bill say it contradicts ballot measure passed in 2000
- Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2005
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision Wednesday to veto a historic same-sex marriage bill was based on the plain language of a ballot measure that Californians passed 5 1/2 years ago.
Proposition 22, approved by 61 percent of the voters in March 2000, declared, in full: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'' Because it was passed by initiative, it can't be amended without another public vote, under state constitutional rules that protect the public's right to make laws at the ballot box.
In announcing his planned veto through a spokeswoman, Schwarzenegger said any attempt by the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage would conflict with Prop. 22.
Prop. 22 and a 1977 legislative measure, which first defined marriage in California as the union of a man and a woman, are being challenged in lawsuits by same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco. Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled in March that the marriage restriction constituted sex discrimination and violated the fundamental right to marry the partner of one's choice, but Kramer put his ruling on hold while it is appealed.
Meanwhile, Prop. 22 remains in effect, along with the 1977 marriage law that it reinforced.
The conservative groups that sponsored the ballot measure say its meaning is clear: California cannot recognize any same-sex marriage, no matter where it was performed. But gay-rights groups argue that the circumstances that led to the passage of Prop. 22 support a narrower interpretation, which would only prohibit recognition in California of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Under the first interpretation, Prop. 22 would conflict with, and therefore override, AB849, the bill Schwarzenegger says he plans to veto. Written by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, AB849 would make the definition of marriage gender-neutral in California -- the first such measure ever passed by a state Legislature.
Under the second, narrower interpretation, no conflict would exist.
Advocates of a narrow interpretation note that Prop. 22 was prompted by court rulings in Hawaii and Vermont that overturned those states' bans on same-sex marriage -- an indication that the measure was intended to shield California from unions declared legal elsewhere. The ballot arguments for Prop. 22 contain language supporting that interpretation. For example, proponents stated that unless the measure passed, "legal loopholes could force California to recognize 'same-sex marriages' performed in other states.''
"They repeatedly said (during the campaign) this dealt with the problem of out-of-state judges defining marriage and California having to go along,'' said Geoff Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California. He also said Prop. 22 had been drafted to be placed in a section of California's family law that addresses recognition of out-of-state marriages and not in the section that defines marriage.
Backers of Prop. 22 counter that the language of the ballot measure does not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state marriages. They also say that limiting the measure to a ban on out-of-state marriages defies common sense.
"It would make no sense that the voters intended to prevent recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages but leave the door wide open to them being created here,'' said Andrew Pugno, attorney for the Prop. 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund. Pugno said he had drafted the ballot measure for the late Sen. Pete Knight.
California courts have not yet defined Prop. 22 conclusively. But the state appeals court that has most explicitly interpreted the measure agreed with its sponsors -- and with Schwarzenegger -- that it would bar any legislative attempt to legalize same-sex marriage.
In a ruling in April that upheld new rights for domestic partners in California, the Court of Appeal in Sacramento said Prop. 22 "ensures ... that California will not permit same-sex partners to validly marry within the state.'' Unless the issue is submitted to the voters, the court added, "the Legislature cannot change this absolute refusal to recognize marriages between persons of the same sex.''
Backers of Leno's bill point to a statement by another state appeals court that Prop. 22 was designed to prevent same-sex couples who had been legally married in other states or countries from seeking recognition of their marriages in California. That ruling, however, did not specify that the effect of Prop. 22 was limited to out-of-state marriages.
The debate was settled, at least for now, when Schwarzenegger announced that he will veto the bill. In a statement by spokeswoman Margita Thompson, the governor sided with Prop. 22 backers who contended Leno's bill conflicts with the voter-approved measure.
"We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote,'' Thompson said.
E-mail Bob Egelko at email@example.com.
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