TV & Radio
California Governor to Veto Bill Authorizing Same-Sex Marriage
By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2005; A04
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7 -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) announced Wednesday night that he will veto landmark legislation that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry.
In a statement, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Margita Thompson, said the governor opposes the legislation, passed Tuesday night by the California Assembly and last week by the state Senate, because he thinks the matter should be decided by California's courts or its voters.
Schwarzenegger's decision ends the prospects for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which passed along strict party lines after an impassioned debate in the California Assembly. The measure would have recast the state's legal definition of marriage as a union between two people rather than a union between a man and a woman.
The vote marked the first time that a state legislature had approved a bill authorizing same-sex marriage without a court order. Massachusetts has passed regulations allowing gay marriage, but only after state courts ordered it to do so.
Gay rights advocates had hailed the Assembly's vote as a victory for civil rights and as a sign that California was again setting a trend for the nation to follow. Conservative activists said the law underscored the lax morality of modern society, and they predicted it would weaken families.
Critics accused Schwarzenegger of dodging an important issue and playing to his Republican conservative base. The onetime movie star's popularity has sagged to its lowest point since he rolled to power on the back of a recall vote in 2003.
"The guy has decided he'd rather shore his relationship with a minority right-wing base than to behave in a way that's more centrist," said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), one of six openly gay members of the state legislature. "But no right-wing base has ever elected a governor."
Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman defended the governor's position, saying he continues to back gay rights, including domestic partnership programs that grant same-sex couples most of the rights enjoyed by married couples. She noted that in 2000 California's voters expressed their views on the marriage issue, passing by more than 60 percent Proposition 22, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Schwarzenegger's move does not end California's fight over the bedroom -- it simply moves it back to the courthouse and potentially the ballot box.
Early last year, San Francisco officials declared that Proposition 22 violated the state's constitution and unilaterally issued marriage licenses to more than 4,000 gay couples. The state Supreme Court nullified those unions, citing the law. In March, a San Francisco judge hearing lawsuits from activists and city officials declared the law unconstitutional, setting the scene for a battle that will return to the state's highest court.
In addition, conservative activists are planning a proposition for a June 2006 election that would ban gay marriage. Another measure would severely curtail domestic partnership benefits.
A Field Poll released last week showed Californians to be split on the issue, with 46 percent opposing and 46 percent approving of same-sex marriages.
Special correspondent Joe Dignan in San Francisco contributed to this report.
San Francisco Chronicle
For lack of one leader -
Thursday, September 8, 2005
The California Legislature's passage of a landmark bill to authorize same-sex marriage was refreshingly free of the usual pressures that determine close votes in the Capitol. The decisive "yes" votes were not plied with promises or reminders of campaign contributions. Pollsters and focus groups were of little use. The lawmakers who were wavering on AB849, mostly from suburban and rural districts, were well aware of the risk of voting yes.
It was as personal as an issue gets in public policy. The undecideds consulted their families, their friends, their ministers. They drew on their life experience as they plumbed their souls for guidance. It was, more than anything, a vote of conscience. On Tuesday, 41 members of the Assembly approved the measure by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, less than a week after it squeaked through the Senate.
"I think you can look at those three (Assembly) members whose votes put us over the top," Leno said. "Clearly, none of those individuals voted for any political advantage. Quite the opposite."
Regrettably, the courage and leadership stopped there.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a two-paragraph statement Wednesday announcing that he would veto AB849.
Instead of equality, the statement from the governor's office offered gays and lesbians platitudes about how he regarded "no undertaking to be more noble than the cause of civil rights."
But Schwarzenegger said it would be wrong for legislators to defy the will of voters who passed Proposition 22, which limits the definition of marriage to a man and a woman. A legal challenge is working its way through the courts after a San Francisco judge ruled the ballot measure violates the "basic right to marry a person of one's choice."
The question should not be whether the public supports a marriage law that enshrines discrimination against gays and lesbians in myriad ways -- including the deprivation of about 1,000 federal rights and responsibilities. The question is whether the state's leaders have the fortitude to risk their standing for the cause of equality -- by challenging discrimination with all available political and legal tools.
Sixty-two legislators did.
History is on the side of leaders with the courage to resist the political calculation of the moment to challenge the status quo on behalf of civil rights.
Schwarzenegger just failed the test.
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A marriage of convenience
- Debra J. Saunders
Thursday, September 8, 2005
IN PASSING a law to legalize same-sex marriages, Democrats in the Legislature sent a clear message to California voters: You don't count. And I say that as someone who was in the minority in 2000. I voted against Proposition 22, an initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage, but 61 percent of state voters supported the measure.
On the one hand, it was courageous for Democrats -- only Dems, but not all Dems, voted for the same-sex marriage bill introduced by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco -- to ignore the will of the voters and vote their conscience. But the vote also was arrogant, because it flouted California law.
Bob Stern, an expert on the initiative process with the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, noted that "California is the only state in the country that says a statutory initiative cannot be either amended or repealed by the Legislature without a vote of the people."
And it was reckless, too. GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promises to veto the bill. He has said he wants the courts or the voters to decide, not the legislators. He's wrong about the courts. If they should overrule Prop. 22 -- which is hardly a given -- then voters will see the move as more judicial arrogance.
It would have been "more appropriate" for Leno to have included a provision to bring the same-sex marriage issue before the voters, Stern said.
Then the governor would not be able to veto it. And the governor, who always would rather that voters settle issues, would have signed it.
What's more, AB849 is dishonest in that it pretends to exist outside of Proposition 22. Leno has long argued that Proposition 22 only addresses out-of-state marriages because the measure's authors inserted their language into Section 308.5 of the state's family law code, which addresses out-of-state marriages.
Baloney. And Leno knows that is not the way California voters saw it. Prop. 22 stated, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Voters didn't care which statute it amended; they wanted to send a clear message about their opposition to same-sex marriage.
Prop. 22 supporter Randy Thomasson scoffed at Leno's logic: 4.6 million Californians voted "to keep marriage between a man and a woman." Those folks weren't voting against out-of-state same-sex marriage.
I expect e-mail from gay couples who see this as strictly a civil-rights issue and want to see same-sex marriage legalized by any means available. Leno argued over the phone Wednesday, "I would never proactively put our civil rights on a ballot. That's why we have three branches of government." And no civil rights advocate would hand over such areas to "the tyranny of the majority."
Supporters of same-sex marriage should ask themselves if they want to win their cause without public support or -- even if it takes a little longer -- with public support.
Leno believes public opinion is changing rapidly, and cited a Public Policy Institute of California poll that shows 46 percent of likely California voters favoring same-sex marriage, with 46 percent of likely voters opposed. That gives Sacramento an added reason to ask the electorate to change its position on same-sex marriage rather than imposing a life-altering law by fiat.
As Karen Hanretty, spokeswoman for the California Republican Party, noted, same-sex marriages would alter the cultural face of the nation; the issue should not be decided "without a great deal of public debate" in the "dark of night."
If voters should approve same-sex marriage, the issue will be settled. If they do not, domestic-partner laws can fill some of the gap while advocates work to woo more votes.
For his part, Leno argues that his bill is democratic because voters, if outraged, will be free to oust lawmakers who supported his measure. Stern noted the courage of lawmakers like Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, whose more conservative Democratic district might not appreciate his yes vote. The worst of it is, Umberg's career might suffer for a bill that never had a chance from the get-go.
The Democratic leadership opted for an end-run around the voters. They could have pushed to put on the ballot an anti-Proposition 22 initiative. You have to figure they didn't want another initiative because it might fail; worse, it might hurt their bids for re-election.
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