by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Schwarzenegger depathologizes Gays, signs other LGBT bills
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill September 27 repealing a 1950s-era law that instructed the California Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the 'causes and cures of homosexuality.'
'We are grateful that our governor has decided to stand with us on the issue of repealing deeply offensive and blatantly false language from state law suggesting that Gays and Lesbians can and should be cured,' said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors.
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill September 27 that allows same-sex couples who have entered into both an official domestic partnership and a marriage under California law and who now want to divorce, to terminate both legal arrangements with one form and procedure.
California allowed registered partnerships, which carry the same state rights and obligations as marriage, before it allowed same-sex marriage, so some couples are registered and married.
The bill also clarifies that same-sex couples who marry outside California can get divorced in California.
Same-sex marriage was legal in California from June to November 2008, when voters amended the state constitution via Proposition 8 to put a stop to it. The couples who married then are still legally married, as are other same-sex couples who live in California and got married anywhere in the world before Prop 8 passed.
Gay couples who married somewhere else after Prop 8 passed, or who marry elsewhere in the future, have all the state-level rights and obligations of married couples except for the legal right to call their marriage a 'marriage' when they are in California. Incongruously, however, if they divorce, they must follow the California procedure for married people, which differs in some respects from the procedure for ending a domestic partnership.
Schwarzenegger signed a third bill September 29 that allows people between ages 12 and 17 to receive mental health care without parental consent.
'LGBT youth across California who are fearful that their families could become abusive or kick them out if they come out - or refuse to consent to their obtaining mental health services - will now be able get the help they need, before it's too late,' said Kors.
'Equality California and Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) made this bill a priority to address the hostile environment too many of California's young people find themselves dealing with every day, the kind of environment that has led to bullying, hate crimes and several recent tragic and heartbreaking suicides,' Kors said. 'But we have a long way to go to end the climate of terror that those who oppose equality and promote hatred have created.'
A fourth bill that Schwarzenegger signed September 30 equalizes unemployment benefits for engaged straight couples and Gay couples who are planning to enter a California registered partnership.
California allows engaged heterosexuals to receive unemployment benefits if one partner leaves a job to move closer to a future spouse. The same policy now will apply to same-sex couples who are planning to become domestic partners.
Schwarzenegger vetoes three Gay-friendly bills
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed three Gay-friendly bills between September 24 and 30.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Prisoner Safety Act was designed to prevent violence in the state prison system by requiring the state to adopt national LGBT prisoner safety guidelines.
'Transgender people are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison than non-Transgender inmates,' said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. 'The National Prisoner Rape Elimination Commission Standards are well-researched, practical and promising. It is shameful that implementation of these standards has been further delayed.'
The bill also would have required the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation not to automatically segregate LGBT inmates and would have protected LGBT inmates from having to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identify to prison officials.
Schwarzenegger's veto message said: 'This bill would require the sexual orientation and gender identity of an inmate or ward, among other risk factors, to be considered as part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's inmate and ward classification and housing assignment procedures. ... This measure is unnecessary because CDCR already considers these factors when determining where to house inmates.'
'They consider them,' Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors responded in an interview, 'but the first line to protect LGBT prisoners is to punish them and put them in solitary confinement. Punishing people who are attacked is unacceptable. LGBT prisoners shouldn't face harsher treatment simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The governor is using words to hide the truth.'
Schwarzenegger also vetoed the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act. Introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and promoted by EQCA and the California Council of Churches, the bill redundantly protected clergy members from having to perform civil marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs, redundantly protected religious institutions from losing tax-exempt status for refusing to perform a civil marriage, and deepened the distinction in state law between religious and civil marriage by defining the latter as a civil contract that requires a state-issued marriage license.
Both of the 'protections' in the bill already exist throughout the U.S., including California.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said: 'I strongly support the rights of same-sex couples to be married. ... Unfortunately, I cannot sign this bill due to the extraneous amendments that will change the term 'marriage' to 'civil marriage' within the California Family Code. Proponents of this bill argue that delineating between civil and religious marriage in statute will make the codes less confusing. However, the Family Code itself does not make a distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage. Consequently, inserting the term 'civil' before the word 'marriage' without explanation does not make things any less confusing. By creating a distinct type of marriage within the code, I believe this measure undermines the goal of marriage equality.'
EQCA's Kors expressed exasperation over the veto message, saying Schwarzenegger didn't understand the bill.
'The governor's mistaken belief that religious and civil marriages are identical and that religious marriages can be regulated by the state is exactly why this bill is needed,' Kors said. 'We look forward to addressing the issues set forth in this bill with our next governor who hopefully will have a legal background and a clearer understanding of the fact that California law already defines marriage as a 'civil contract.' We also hope that our next governor will work with legislators and sponsors of legislation to address concerns before bills reach his or her desk, so that modifications can be made during the legislative process instead of legislation needing to be brought back in subsequent years due to lack of understanding or communication from the administration.'
Leno agreed that Schwarzenegger was confused.
'[T]his legislation simply would have reinforced the fact that the state can only provide a civil marriage to couples who marry,' Leno said. 'The state cannot, and never will be, in the business of religious marriages. The governor's belief that this bill would have created a separate classification of marriage is misguided.'
The head of the California Council of Churches, the Rev. Rick Schlosser, suggested, however, that Schwarzenegger was playing dumb.
'I am absolutely shocked, stunned and angered that the governor has once again let partisan politics take precedence over our constitution, especially given the fact that the reason given for the veto is not even remotely credible,' Schlosser said.
Finally, Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have banned contracts that require a person to waive certain legal rights and procedures under hate-crime laws and would have prohibited an individual from refusing to enter into a contract because the other party refused to waive those rights.
Because of such waivers, which are sometimes found in job and residential contracts, victims of hate crimes can be forced into arbitration rather than being allowed to seek justice in court.
Schwarzenegger said: 'This bill would prohibit businesses from being able to enter into contracts that require disputes to be resolved through arbitration. Arbitration has evolved into a productive and useful method for resolving disputes. It allows parties the opportunity to resolve cases faster than traditional litigation and without incurring the enormous expenses associated with going to court.'
With assistance from Bill Kelley
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