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The Washington Post
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Marriage 'Equality' in California
Saturday, September 10, 2005; Page A22
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) announced that he will veto legislation passed by both houses of the California legislature allowing same-sex marriage because he "thinks the matter should be decided by California's courts or its voters" [news story, Sept. 8].
Did he forget that the state legislature is elected by the people of California expressly to pass laws and govern on their behalf? Or did he forget that letting the courts decide is anathema to his Republican philosophy?
It sounds as though the governor is acting on political grounds rather than heeding his conscience. I guess it's easier and more politically expedient for him to dodge his responsibility, but his action reminds me of a line from the great John Prine song "That's the Way the World Goes 'Round":
"He's got muscles in his head that ain't never been used."
JON S. OLSON
The Sept. 7 news story "California Legislature Approves Gay Marriage" said that in the absence of a state marriage equality law, same-sex couples are denied only a "few" of the state or federal rights and responsibilities that marriage brings.
To the contrary, despite California's comprehensive domestic partnership laws, more than 1,000 federal marriage protections are denied to families headed by same-sex couples.
Same-sex couples pay an onerous federal tax on health benefits, which can make private insurance unaffordable and increase the burden on taxpayer-funded programs. When a partner dies, the survivor pays federal tax penalties on retirement savings. And the federal government, the nation's largest employer, excludes same-sex couples from health and pension plans.
Domestic partnerships and civil unions are a step forward, but it's only with full marriage equality that every man, woman and child will get what all Americans deserve: equal treatment under the law.
Human Rights Campaign
Time favors gay-marriage proponents
- C.W. Nevius
Saturday, September 10, 2005 - San Francisco Chronicle
Social conservatives in California are feeling pretty cheerful now that the governor has said he will veto the same-sex marriage bill. And yes, across the country, 11 states, including California, have passed bans on same-sex marriage.
But here's some advice: Enjoy it now. It isn't going to last.
The right wing is missing a powerful, building undercurrent. Simply put, at this point, much of the younger generation has probably gone to school with openly gay peers. They also see them in the workplace and even in their neighborhoods. And they don't seem that scary.
Last spring, a friend of Eitan Bencuya, a third-year student at UC Berkeley and reporter for the Daily Californian student paper, told him that he was gay. Bencuya's reaction? Hum, that's interesting.
"It's not even a distinguishing factor any more,'' says Bencuya, who is straight. "It is much more common and acceptable, and less something to feel guilty about.''
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who wrote the same-sex marriage bill, says polls bear out what Bencuya is saying.
"Those over 65 oppose same-sex marriage,'' Leno says. "But those under 35 support it -- and more strongly than those over 65 oppose it.''
While the battle for legal same-sex marriage may rage for years, it seems clear there is a general shift toward support of committed relationships between same-sex partners.
Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, once a focus of controversy in high schools, have become commonplace. Riley Snorton of the national Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network in New York, which helps sponsor the clubs, says there are some 3,000 chapters nationwide and more than 400 in California, including in such seemingly conservative communities as Fresno, Clovis and Visalia.
In the Bay Area, chapters range from exclusive Bishop O'Dowd in the East Bay to Lowell High in San Francisco and Palo Alto High on the Peninsula. Basically, a school that does not have some sort of gay-awareness organization is the exception.
That's not good news for conservatives.
It isn't just that the under-35s are moving up while the over-65s are moving out. The real problem is that if the anti-gay marriage faction can't count on people being shocked and horrified by gays, they really don't have much to fall back on. There's no economic or public safety reason to keep two people who love each other from getting married. It just comes down to "I don't like the idea so you can't do it.''
Which, when you think about it, was pretty much the argument against interracial marriage.
But wait, it gets worse for the right. It isn't just Generation X and Y who support same-sex couples and families. This is happening in that outpost of traditional values -- the suburbs.
Michael Phillips sells real estate in Silicon Valley. He is listed on gay real estate Web sites but sells to straight buyers, too. His point is, when it comes to houses, neighborhoods and schools, there isn't much distinction.
"Once you get those kids and a house and a mortgage,'' Phillips says, "people say, you know, they're not that much different from us.''
Phillips has been with his partner for 22 years, and they are raising a teenage son. Confirmed Catholics, they go to Mass once a week and volunteer in the parish.
"People are very nice to us. I have never had anyone say we don't belong,'' says Phillips. "I mean, we aren't in there holding hands, but I also don't think people are stupid. They know what is going on.''
And that's another point. The face of the person who is gay has changed -- or at least the perception. Ellen DeGeneres, virtually drummed out of television when she revealed she was lesbian, is now hosting a national talk show. Her audience, which looks like moms from Middle America, whoops wildly when she steps on stage. They love Ellen.
And in December, Ang Lee, Academy Award-nominated director, will premier "Brokeback Mountain.'' It is the story of two ranch hands who unexpectedly find a mutual attraction. Or, as one reviewer put it, "Cowboys in love -- with each other.'' Is there a more powerful icon of American masculinity than the cowboy? And this is not a cheap independent release, but a full feature from Paramount Pictures.
To someone like Cal student Bencuya, it is an example of how the current climate is " ... changing the stigma. Gays actually fall in love and have committed relationships. It is not like (the movie and play) 'Birdcage' with the guy in the feather boa.''
Instead, they may be the neighbors down the street. Phillips says he and his partner got to know a married couple while attending youth sports events. The pair ended up divorcing with the wife taking the kids. Later, the father learned that his son was gay. He told Phillips it was a surprise, but he was getting through it.
"But I would never have been in a position to accept it,'' the father said, "if I hadn't known you two guys.''
That's no surprise to Leno.
"Every poll shows that people who know someone who is gay or lesbian are much less discriminatory,'' he says.
Now take that experience and multiply it across the country. Tell me a law is going to overcome it.
C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesday and Saturday in Bay Area and in East Bay Life on Friday. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Page B - 1
September 10, 2005 latimes.com : Opinion : Commentary
Marrying the law and leadership
By Tobias Barrington Wolff, TOBIAS BARRINGTON WOLFF teaches law at UC Davis and is on the Equal Justice Society's board of directors. - Los Angeles Times
IF GOV. ARNOLD Schwarzenegger follows through with his planned veto of the historic "marriage equality" bill enacted by the California Legislature, it will be a defining moment in his legacy.
A public official who acts as a mere cipher for public opinion has not met the test of leadership. Leadership sometimes calls on officials to challenge us all to recognize principle, and to overcome fear and prejudice in favor of what is right. On Tuesday, the Legislature showed such leadership when it passed the first law in the nation extending marriage equality to gays and lesbians. The governor has yet to answer the call. Instead, his unconvincing initial statement abdicates leadership and takes cover in rhetoric about the "will of the people."
There is no question that the legal situation is complicated, a fact that Schwarzenegger is using to avoid the real issue. First, there is Proposition 22, enacted by the people of California in 2000 (hence the governor's reference to "the will of the people"). The proposition reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." It was a response to fears that the issue of marriage for gay couples would be decided in other states, with California forced to recognize marriages performed elsewhere with no chance for local input. Because it was passed by popular initiative, it is a "super statute": The Legislature cannot touch it.
The bill enacted, in contrast, seeks to amend the laws that govern who can form a civil marriage in California, making those laws equally available to gay couples. Proponents of the bill contend it does not violate Proposition 22 because it deals only with local marriage policy, not California's treatment of out-of-state couples.
This position is the subject of debate. Proposition 22 uses language that could apply to Californians (when it speaks about which marriages are "valid") as well as couples from elsewhere (speaking about which marriages are "recognized"). Proposition 22, however, was described to voters as a way to prevent other states from imposing their laws upon California, not a way to prevent our own Legislature from setting state policy. Consistent with that purpose, Proposition 22 is codified in our statutes as an exception to the provision governing how California treats marriages from other states.
Finally, there is a constitutional challenge pending in state court. A Superior Court has ruled that the exclusion of gay couples from civil marriage amounts to unconstitutional discrimination. The court found that California's marriage laws must be available to everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality. And because Proposition 22 discriminates against gay couples from out of state, the court found that it also violates the state Constitution. The case will probably come before the California Supreme Court within several years.
Many of the legal questions swirling around marriage equality will have to be settled by California courts, as the governor has said. But they are irrelevant to his decision on the marriage bill. He is not faced with a question of legal interpretation. He is faced with a question of principle. He should sign the bill because it is the right thing to do. The million-plus gay and lesbian citizens of California should not have to prove the humanity and dignity of their relationships in every new election cycle.
Californians have already come a long way in recognizing these principles. The governor must now help lead them the rest of the way.