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California's Solons Lead
Tuesday, September 13, 2005; Page A26
THE CALIFORNIA General Assembly last week became the first state legislature to allow same-sex marriages. In a close vote, it sent a historic bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) that would go a step beyond the state's broad domestic partnership rights. Mr. Schwarzenegger promptly declared that he would veto the bill, so it won't become law. But the legislature's action is an important milestone. While the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court permitted same-sex marriage in that state and legislatures have created civil unions elsewhere, the vote is the first time that a state legislature has acted on its own to create marriage equality.
The importance of the California vote in the politics of same-sex marriage is hard to overstate. After the Massachusetts court ruling, opponents of same-sex marriage decried the court's willingness to make policy on contested social issues. Such questions, they argued, were the rightful province of legislatures, not courts. President Bush even pegged his disgraceful endorsement of a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the likelihood of "activist judges" depriving the people of democratic choice on the matter. The California legislature's decision gives the lie to the notion that only imperial judges would foist such a social policy on a state.
Only five years ago, voters in California overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative to refuse recognition to same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The recent legislative action reflects genuinely changed public sentiment; polls on the matter show voters evenly split.
In an ironic twist, Mr. Schwarzenegger is trying to punt the matter back to the courts, where challenges to current California law are pending. In announcing his decision to veto the bill, he suggested that the new law conflicts with the old initiative -- which would be unconstitutional -- and that "the matter should be determined not by legislative action . . . but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state."
The governor could not be more wrong. Legislation is actually the best way to move forward in this area. And further ballot initiatives that will attempt to write an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage into the California constitution and, along the way, wipe out the state's progressive domestic partnership laws, are already in the works in any event. A lot of work remains to be done before marriage equality in California becomes a reality.
But the legislative action last week remains an important symbol -- at once a rebuke to those states that have reacted to the Massachusetts decision by writing discrimination into their fundamental laws and a gentle reminder to those who see hope for progress only in the courts that legislatures can still be engines for positive change.
USA > Domestic Politics
from the September 13, 2005 edition
Will California's gay marriage bill spur similar measures elsewhere?
California Lawmakers approve same-sex marriage, but the governor promises a veto.By Daniel B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
LOS ANGELES – The latest struggle over who decides the legality of gay marriage - citizens, lawmakers, or the courts - played out in the nation's most populous state last week. The California legislature was the first to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto it.
The political stand-off raises legal issues specific to California, state and national observers say. The legislature's attempt to broaden the definition of marriage is in direct conflict with a citizens' initiative passed in 2000 defining legal marriage as between a man and woman only. That citizen's initiative itself, Proposition 22, is also being challenged in court.
But the recent move by Sacramento legislators emphasizes what some observers see as a shift in public opinion that appears to be more accepting of gay marriage. Still, others anticipate the bill could add to the backlash against the gay-marriage movement that prompted 11 states to ban same-sex marriage through ballot initiatives last year. Indeed, California conservative groups have heightened efforts to place an initiative before voters that would recognize heterosexual unions only.
National pollsters report more acceptance of gays and lesbians in a variety of other contexts. What happens in California could set the tone for how other states deal with the issue legislatively.
"There will be lurches backward and forward as some states throw up roadblocks to such arrangements and others embrace them," says Elizabeth Garrett, a law professor at University of Southern California who tracks state initiatives. "But overall the support for civil unions is getting stronger and stronger."
A recent statewide poll here shows that voters are evenly split (about 46 percent for, and 46 against) same-sex marriage. Five years ago, 61 percent of voters backed the initiative that defined marriage as between a man and woman. "Moves by the California legislature are part of the national trend toward greater equality for same-sex couples that has been growing coast to coast for the past few years," says Ms. Garrett.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom reignited the issue here last fall when he directed city officials to permit same-sex marriage licenses. Hundreds of couples who obtained the licenses in San Francisco later learned their nuptials were declared invalid by a court ruling that said a mayor could not ignore state law.
Some social conservative groups reject the analysis that public attitudes are shifting to embrace same-sex marriage. They claim that public opinion polls were roughly 50-50 before the Proposition 22 vote, but that the measure's overwhelming victory was a truer litmus test.
"The only vote that counts is at the ballot box, and the people spoke clearly on Prop. 22," says Karen England, of Capitol Resources Institute, a Sacramento group that advocates for family issues. "This legislature knows what the people feel and were afraid to put their measure to a public vote, which they could have done. Instead they are trying to make an end run around the will of the people."
Governor Schwarzenegger is being accused of political posturing with his veto to protect his conservative base in the face of declining approval ratings. But whatever ensues with the legal and political wrangling here, national gay and lesbian rights groups say they are encouraged by the legislature's move.
"Like activities in Massachusetts and Connecticut which have kept the issue alive despite negative attacks, the California measure is a teachable moment," says Seth Kilborn, marriage project director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay/lesbian political organization. "It is an opportunity to talk to voters about why same-sex marriage is important."
California court affirms gay parenting 08/25/05
A church's struggle over gay marriage 07/01/05
Tug of war intensifies on gay-marriage issue 05/05/05
Conservatives Lash Out At Arnold Over Gay Marriage
by Mary Ellen Peterson 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau
Posted: September 12, 2005 5:00 pm ET
(San Francisco, California) As California gays and lesbians ratchet up pressure to get Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change his mind on vetoing gay marriage legislation conservatives are voicing their displeasure at his explanation for turning down the measure.
Groups supporting twin proposals to amend the state constitution to bar gay marriage are specifically angry at Schwarzenegger for suggesting the issue should be settled by the courts or voters. While they applaud sending it to the electorate they are accusing the governor of defying Republican reasoning by suggesting the issue should be put to the California Supreme Court.
The Republican mantra, since the Massachusetts court ruling allowing same-sex marriage, has been that the courts are ruled by "activist judges".
"It's not an issue for the courts — he's inviting judicial activism and that's what we're opposed to," Rich Ackerman, of the Pro-Family Legal Center told Fox news.
Randy Thomasson, president of the California Campaign for Families - the group behind one of the proposed amendments - said, "it should not be left up to the courts ... Californians are fed up with politicians and judges attacking their wishes, attacking their vote," he said, referring to Proposition 22.
"I've never heard of any Republican who's actually looking to the courts to decide," said Peter LaBarbera, head of Protect Marriage Illinois, which is trying to get a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in that state.
"That's sort of a naïve view, or just passing the buck," he added.
In addition to attacks from the core base of the Republican Party the moderate California Council of Churches and California Church IMPACT are urging Schwarzenegger to alter course and sign the gay marriage bill.
"People believe that all Christians are opposed to same-sex marriage. That is not at all accurate," said Rev. Schlosser Executive Director of both organizations.
"This bill is completely responsive to the differing views and allows churches to follow their own conscience regardless of what they believe. It is an honorable means to achieving a fully democratic and fair society with all views having the freedom of conscience. We urge the Governor to sign this important and historic bill."
The criticism is an indication that Schwarzenegger's position has eroded support for his reelection.
Meanwhile, Equality California, the state's largest LGBT civil rights group, announced ‘Twelve Days of Equality’, a a statewide campaign aimed at showing Schwarzenegger same-sex couples and their families need greater protections than those provided for in the domestic partnership law, which the governor supports.
“The clock is now running, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a decision to make about his legacy,” said EC Executive Director Geoffrey Kors.
“Marriage equality legislation now awaits the Governor and our community has an opportunity to let him know that hundreds of thousands of families need him to stand with us on the right side of history.”
Twelve Days of Equality will involve a series of daily grassroots actions to educate local communities about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families. One action each day will generate a million actions before the marriage equality bill reaches the Governor’s desk.
So far, though, the governor has shown no sign of changing his position.