June 1, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 22
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Saturday, Mar 24, 2018



Calif. marriage bill expected to pass - Schwarzenegger likely to veto it again
Calif. marriage bill expected to pass - Schwarzenegger likely to veto it again
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

What's the point of the California Legislature passing a bill legalizing same-sex marriage this year if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to veto it again?

There are, in fact, myriad reasons not to give up the fight, say those involved in the struggle. And there's always the off chance the Governator might have a change of heart, though there's no indication of it at the moment.

Assembly Bill 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, was introduced by Gay Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. It passed the Judiciary Committee 7-3 on April 10 and is expected to arrive on the Assembly floor in early June.

Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the statewide LGBT lobby group Equality California, expects the bill will again pass both the Assembly and Senate and land on Schwarzenegger's desk -- making California, for the second time in three years, the only U.S. state whose legislature has passed a same-sex marriage bill.

Asked what the governor will do this time, a press aide sent a Web link to Schwarzenegger's Feb. 15, 2007, speech to the YMCA 59th Model Legislature and Court.

During a question-and-answer session, Sam Bayer from the Marin YMCA asked Schwarzenegger, "If the legislature were to bring you a new bill proposing to legalize Gay marriage, would you sign it?"

The governor replied: "No. I would not sign it because the people of California have voted on that issue, and they made it very clear under Proposition 22, the majority of people, more than 60 percent of the people, voted no on that proposition, no to marriage of same sex. I believe in all the same rights, all the same rights than a marriage, and I've passed and signed many bills in order to make sure that we have that here in California. But I don't want, as the governor, to go against the will of the people. If it goes back on the ballot the people can make the decision. They should make that decision, but it should not be me or the legislators going against the will of the people in any of this."

Proposition 22, passed seven years ago, actually prohibited only recognition of same-sex marriages entered into outside California.

"Prop 22 [specifically amended] Section 308 of the Family Code, which has the headline 'Foreign Marriages,'" Assemblyman Leno explained in an interview. "They created 308.5 and put it before the voters. ... They could have amended the marriage law [but] they didn't."

At the time he vetoed the 2005 bill, Schwarzenegger also said it would be OK with him if a court forced legalization of Gay marriage in California.

"The governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action -- which would be unconstitutional -- but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state," his office said at the time.

A same-sex marriage case is now before the California Supreme Court and a ruling is expected early next year.

While waiting for that decision, and even anticipating Schwarzenegger's rerun veto, activists still see value in the Legislature voting for same-sex marriage one more time.

"Every time you bring a bill for a vote, it's an opportunity for education," EQCA's Kors said in an interview. "Second, when it passed the first time, it forced legislators to take a position; we have the majority on record supporting marriage equality. They go back to their districts and they're asked about it and they explain it, so they become our ambassadors.

"It also sends a message to the California Supreme Court, which is considering a marriage case. It lets the court know they're not out there on their own."

Leno's rationale for redoing the process mirrors Kors' explanation.

"As long as a bill's in print and moving through the legislative process, the issue is that much more visible, garners that much more media attention and subsequently raises that much more awareness," Leno said.

Kors also noted that "things have changed since the governor vetoed the previous bill. The California Court of Appeal issued a ruling [in 2005] disagreeing with his veto message and said the governor and the Legislature do have the power to change the law. They specifically rejected his veto message."

Although the court ruled against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, "they said very clearly that there was nothing relative to Proposition 22 that prohibits the Legislature from considering this issue," agreed Leno. "Why that is important is that the basis of the governor's veto was that this had to be decided in the court and could not be decided by the Legislature."

Schwarzenegger is known to be Gay-friendly personally and he has signed more pro-LGBT bills than any governor in U.S. history.

In 2005, his press office said: "He believes that Gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship. He is proud that California provides the most rigorous protections in the nation for domestic partners."

So what's really behind his opposition to same-sex marriage?

Kors said Schwarzenegger may want to run for Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat, "so there may be concern from some of his advisers that this could hurt him from turning out the right wing, or could result in a conservative primary challenge."

Kors also noted that the governor sometimes needs support from the Legislature's Republican members, a minority in both houses, to get certain bills passed "and he might be concerned it might cause some big problems for him there."

"Rather than doing what he knows is the right thing to do, he's willing to sacrifice our community's equality for political reasons," Kors charged.

Equality California is working on several fronts to change Schwarzenegger's mind.

"We've been getting legal briefs to him," Kors said. "We've been having meetings with his senior staff. We're working on having him meet with families impacted by marriage discrimination. We're working to get Republicans and other people he knows to talk to him about the issue [and] we'll continue working to move the public."

Kors said EQCA also certainly could use more help from ordinary LGBT Californians.

"LGBT people have a lot of rights in this state, but I think it's important they know they're still discriminated against in a lot of ways," he said. "People need to get more engaged; there's no doubt."

Leno said he hopes Schwarzenegger "will forward us the opportunity to have children, families and couples share with him directly as to how the current inequity in law causes them pain on a daily basis. We want to put it into real terms; we're talking about human lives, and I think to deny us that opportunity would be disrespectful of those lives.

"We are presenting him with an historic opportunity to, with the stroke of his pen, exhibit leadership which will be remembered for decades if not centuries to come."

Meanwhile, Equality California is "cautiously optimistic" the state Supreme Court will legalize same-sex marriage.

"It has a long history of pro-LGBT-rights decisions -- some of the best decisions in the country," Kors said. "I think that gives us some hope. The court also has precedent where it says marriage is a fundamental right."

Leno said he expects the ruling will come down "in early 2008."

"And that is yet one more reason for the Legislature to pass marriage equality one more time to the governor's desk," he said. "The Supreme Court will be watching as they finally consider the issue themselves. To have legislative intent represented by two passages of marriage-equality bills will be very beneficial for proponents of marriage equality. I think we have a very reasonable chance of prevailing."

If that happens, "family" activists are expected to use the ballot-initiative process to attempt to undo the court's ruling by amending the state constitution to mandate that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

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