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Posted on Sat, Dec. 02,
It's Round 2 for S.F. legislator in legal fight for gay marriage
By Steven Harmon
MediaNews Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO - The debate over gay marriage is back after a year's hiatus, and this time supporters are hopeful the political climate has changed since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005.
San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno, a Democrat who is openly gay, announced he will introduce a new marriage bill Monday, when legislators are sworn in for the upcoming session.
``We see great momentum with growing support,'' said Leno, heading into his third and final term in the Assembly. ``We've come a long way'' since California voters approved an initiative defining marriage as between a man and a woman in 2000.
Leno called on the state's political leaders to ``rise up out of the shadows of inequality and be counted on this important civil rights issue by using their powers to put an end to discrimination against all people.''
Opponents, though, said it was illegal for the Legislature to repeal a vote of the people, though the 2000 measure, Proposition 22, more specifically dealt with not allowing California to recognize gay marriages sanctioned by other states.
Since Schwarzenegger vetoed Leno's 2005 legislation, public support has grown for gay marriage. While Proposition 22 passed by a 20-point margin, six years later voters are now split evenly on the issue, according to opinion polls.
Also, courts have argued in favor of gay marriage: The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state Legislature must provide same-sex couples equal access to the protections of marriage if it wanted to reserve marriage for a man and a woman. And a California Court of Appeals ruled the issue should be settled by the Legislature.
``There's been a huge shift, and we're hoping the governor realizes that public opinion has moved,'' said Geoff Kors, executive director for Equality California, a statewide organization that advocates for gay and lesbian rights, ``and that his pledge to support full equality can only be addressed through marriage equality.''
Schwarzenegger vetoed Leno's legislation just prior to the special election, when he was currying support from his party's conservative base to approve his since-doomed reforms.
But this year, he signed seven bills supported by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, including one that he'd vetoed in 2005. That bill added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of personal characteristics that can't be used in a negative way during a political campaign in voluntary pledges candidates can take.
Schwarzenegger has also been supportive of rights for domestic partners. But, he still believes voters have already decided the issue, said spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart.
``The governor's position,'' she said, ``hasn't changed.''
Predicting the gay marriage issue will be the ``biggest legislative battle'' next year, Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, said Democrats ``have declared war upon marriage between a man and a woman.''
``To continue to push for full-blown gay marriage licenses is unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic,'' Thomasson said. ``The California Constitution specifically prohibits the Legislature from repealing voter-approved initiatives. This bill should be vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger on the same grounds as he vetoed it last year -- because the people have already voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman, just as God created it.''
In his 2005 veto message, Schwarzenegger said, ``I do not believe the Legislature can reverse an initiative approved by the people of California.''
He also suggested that legislative action was not needed. ``If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, this bill is not necessary,'' he wrote. ``If the ban is constitutional, this bill is ineffective.''
Leno disagrees, saying it's clear in the language of the state's family code, which Proposition 22 amended, that it applies only to out-of-state gay marriages.
``Now, they want to say they meant more than that,'' Leno said. ``If the ban is unconstitutional, it's the Legislature's job to change the law, so this bill is necessary.''
A San Francisco Superior Court judge overruled the 2000 ban, but was overruled himself last year by a Court of Appeals judge, who said the issue shouldn't be decided by judicial fiat, but by the Legislature.
And the state Supreme Court is considering challenges to two parts of the state's family code. One defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the other prohibits the state from recognizing out-of-state gay marriages. The high court isn't expected to decide until 2008.
Contact Steven Harmon at email@example.com or (916) 441-2101.
Gay Marriage Bill To Be Reintroduced In Calif. Assembly
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: December 1, 2006 5:00 pm ET
(Sacramento, California) Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) on Monday will reintroduce legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry in California.
Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act is is identical to a bill passed last year in both the Assembly and Senate but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill would amend the Family Code to define marriage as a civil contract between two persons instead of a civil contract between a man and a woman, and again reaffirms that no religious institution would be required to solemnize marriages contrary to its fundamental beliefs.
"Each branch of government must rise up out of the shadows of inequality and be counted on this important civil rights issue by using their powers to put an end to discrimination against all people," Leno said in a statement Friday..
"It is more important than ever that our legislative branch here in California reaffirms the belief that marriage is an institution only strengthened by inclusiveness. Our society is strengthened by stable and committed relationships, and our governmental bodies should be doing all they can to help these relationships flourish.”
The measure has the support of the state's largest LGBT civil rights group along with the California NAACP, the United Farm Workers, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Anti-Defamation League, CA National Organization for Women, and the CA Council of Churches.
"The time has come to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. This legislation validates loving relationships and strengthens California families by honoring the commitments of every couple under law," Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors said.
When Schwarzenegger voted the bill last year he said the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up the courts or a plebiscite. (story)
"If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional this bill is not necessary. If the ban is constitutional this bill is ineffective," the governor said at the time.
Meanwhile the California Supreme Court is expected to take up the state ban on gay marriage in 2007. Attorneys for same-sex couples filed an appeal with the court last month asking the justices to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld the ban. (story)
The justices have until February 14, Valentine's day to decide whether to hear the case.
The lawsuit wraps together three separate cases that arose after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 began allowing marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples.
In March 2005 a Superior Court judge in San Francisco ruled that California law denying same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
"It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners," County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer said in a written ruling. (story)
Kramer stayed his ruling while the state appealed. In October the California Court of Appeal in a split decision overturned the ruling.
Leno's bill will be heard in policy and fiscal committees in the Assembly and Senate beginning early 2007.
Gay marriage foes say they will do all they can to defeat the measure.
"As Californians prepare to celebrate Christmas, the Democrats have declared war upon marriage between a man and a woman," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families in a statement.
Thomasson said his group will continue to push for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state.