TV & Radio
Gay Marriage Opposition Split in Calif.
- By LISA LEFF, Associated Press
Saturday, September 10, 2005
(09-10) 15:24 PDT San Francisco (AP) --
Despite their state's history of promoting gay rights, Californians have been split on the subject of same-sex marriage — a contrast that's expected to become even more pronounced because of two overlapping voter initiatives. Fearing that courts eventually will support the rights of gay couples to marry, opponents want voters to amend the state Constitution to allow only heterosexual unions.
However, a rift among conservatives has led competing groups to promote two different bans and snipe at each other over which is best. Both petitions would do away with rights associated with domestic partnerships as well as same-sex unions.
Conservatives worry the infighting could doom the initiatives, while gay-rights advocates say voters are not likely to discard established domestic partnership rights.
"There is obviously a rift in the family over which of the proposed amendments best protects marriage and protects the rights and benefits of marriage," said Benjamin Lopez, a lobbyist for the Traditional Values Coalition who tried to unite the competing groups behind one measure earlier this year. "The situation right now is delicate."
Voters agreed five years ago in a ballot initiative, Proposition 22, that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, but courts said the law violated gay couples' civil rights.
Last week, the California Legislature became the nation's first legislative body to approve a bill allowing same-sex marriages, although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would veto it.
In the ballot initiatives, a group called Vote Yes Marriage favors a detailed, multi-paragraph amendment rescinding the marriage-like rights lawmakers granted domestic partners over the last five years while defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The other group, Protect Marriage, does it in one sentence: "A marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
The sponsors have until January to gather 598,105 signatures to put the amendments on next June's ballot.
Andrew Pugno, legal adviser to Protect Marriage, said that group wants to keep the wording simple as a strategic move.
Backers of the longer Vote Yes Marriage version say that while the Protect Marriage initiative might keep the courts and the Legislature from bestowing marriage licenses on same-sex couples, it would not necessarily do away with domestic partnerships.
Thirteen states already have constitutional bans on gay marriage. Others are expected to be on ballots next year in Alabama, Indiana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Virginia, South Dakota and Tennessee. Voters in Texas will decide on an amendment outlawing gay marriage this year.
Although Proposition 22 passed with 61 percent of the vote five years ago, a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that voters are evenly divided on whether gays should be allowed to marry. Other polls have found a majority think same-sex couples deserve at least domestic partner rights.
Gay rights advocates said that by attempting to void California's domestic partner laws as well as ban gay marriage, both proposals might be spelling their defeat. But they nevertheless are bracing for the likelihood that at least one will make the June ballot and the possibility that the second would be put before voters the following November.
"Ultimately, it wouldn't surprise me if this is a way for two different groups to raise as much money as possible and then join forces," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the lobbying group Equality California. "We are suspicious of their motivation because we know they are motivated by wanting to take away the rights of our families."
On the Net:
Vote Yes Marriage:
The Chicago Tribune
Respecting the voters
Published September 10, 2005
California law does not allow marriages between same-sex partners, and that ban has been affirmed by the people: In 2000, they approved a ballot initiative that barred the state from sanctioning same-sex marriages. Proposition 22 declared, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
That measure passed with the approval of 61 percent of the voters. Yet just five years later, the legislature has decided the will of the people on this subject deserves to be ignored. Recently, by a single-vote margin, it became the first legislature in the nation to act on its own to permit gays to marry. (In Massachusetts, gay marriage came about from a ruling by the state's highest court.)
The legislature's vote, however, became moot when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would veto the bill. Though much of the political opposition to the legislature's action reflects a simple and unfortunate animus toward homosexuals, the governor made the correct decision.
Not everyone would agree with California's frequent reliance on direct democracy to address major policy issues. But once the people have spoken so unequivocally, the legislature ought to respect their choice. To do otherwise is to render the ballot initiative process irrelevant, which can only alienate the legislature from the people it is supposed to serve.
Supporters of the measure say public opinion has softened considerably since 2000, and a recent poll found Californians split evenly, with 46 percent supporting same-sex marriage and 46 percent opposing it. If sentiment has truly shifted, though, it would make more sense to take the issue back to the voters. Overriding the choice they made at the polls practically invites an angry backlash.
This is not the first time that public officials in California have chosen to flout what the people decided. Last year, the mayor of San Francisco decided Proposition 22 was unconstitutional and issued more than 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state Supreme Court said the city had overstepped its authority and nullified those licenses.
Schwarzenegger has been ridiculed for saying the question of same-sex marriage should be resolved by the people or the courts. But in the California context, that makes perfect sense.
It's the right of the people there to pass laws by ballot initiative. It's the obligation of the courts to decide whether those laws, like statutes passed by the legislature, are compatible with the state constitution. A lower court recently ruled Proposition 22 was unconstitutional, and the state Supreme Court will have to make the ultimate judgment.
In the meantime, the needs of gays and lesbians in California have not exactly been ignored. Not only does the state ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it has a domestic partnership law that allows same-sex couples to register with the state and get almost all the rights that marriage affords under state law. This is nearly indistinguishable from the civil unions permitted in Vermont.
But the people of California have made it clear that while they have no problem with domestic partnerships, they are not ready for same-sex marriage. Schwarzenegger is wise to abide by their decision, since the legislature would rather not.
Posted on Sun, Sep. 11, 2005
Governor a politician after all, as waffling on gay vows shows
By Phil Yost
San Jose Mercury News
Arnold Schwarzenegger was taking instruction straight from the manual of conventional political strategy when he sidestepped the bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
Handed a landmark law by the Legislature, Schwarzenegger promptly promised a veto while sort of endorsing the goal. Asserting that ``gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law,'' he nonetheless said he had to be subservient to the will of the people as expressed in the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 22 from 2000.
It's hard to knock this decision in political terms, and it has a defensible legal rationale. But it's still disappointing to me from a leadership standpoint, especially the vacillating language, because the promise of Schwarzenegger the candidate was that he would throw the old political manual out the window. He not only called himself an untraditional Republican, he bristled when anyone referred to him as a politician.
He acted like one last week.
Surely he reckoned that even if he had signed the bill, the question wouldn't be settled. Same-sex marriage is in the courts, and is soon to be on initiative petitions in front of supermarkets. Either one could take the decision away from the Legislature and the governor.
Further counseling caution is the still-fresh spectacle of liberal Democrats last year ducking in the same way -- endorsing domestic partnerships, not marriage. Why should Schwarzenegger rush in where Barbara Boxer feared to tread?
The prospect of delivering a political hand grenade to the governor had to motivate Democrats, along with their belief in the cause. The vote was safe for all but a handful of Democrats, but not for the governor. Why should Schwarzenegger put himself in harm's way?
Same-sex marriage is probably opposed by a majority of Californians -- although one recent poll shows an even split. It's certainly opposed by a majority of the governor's fellow Republicans. The bill got no Republican votes in the Legislature.
With a special election coming up in which the governor already looks to be making little headway against the tide of public opinion, he can't afford to lose any more people in the boat who are willing to help him row.
Add it all together and you get a decision that keeps his head down and his party happy.
Maybe Schwarzenegger is against same-sex marriage. In that case, he should just say so. Because the overall impression left from his various conflicting comments is that he's comfortable with it if the courts or the voters want to change the law. He's just not going to get out in front until it's clear which direction the parade is going.
Schwarzenegger argues that Proposition 22, which voters passed 61 percent to 39 percent, prevents him from signing the bill. It says, ``Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.''
But even if Proposition 22 ties his hands, it doesn't tape his mouth shut.
Schwarzenegger could have said that while the law prevented him from signing the bill, he wished he could have. He could have called on voters to reject the initiatives that opponents of same-sex marriage are preparing. Some of them roll back the rights of domestic partners that California has established, in addition to limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
Instead, he issued a two-paragraph statement saying the matter should not be determined by the Legislature and the governor.
It's unfair to make same-sex marriage a litmus test for Schwarzenegger's promise to be a different kind of governor just because I wish he had chosen to make national history.
But for me, it's not so much the veto as the bobbing and weaving. He doesn't consider himself a politician, but there he was last week, not really against same-sex marriage, not really for it. His firmest position was that he isn't allowed to decide.
PHIL YOST is chief editorial writer of the Mercury News. Contact him at email@example.com