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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 16, 2005

Marriage bill delayed to avoid governor's veto

Sacramento--Although they passed it last week, California lawmakers have delayed sending a same-sex marriage bill to the governor, to give LGBT equal rights advocates a chance to lobby against his promised veto.

Assemblyman Mark Leno had wanted the legislature to invoke a rarely-used maneuver that would delay sending the bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger until next year, but lawmakers were reluctant to do that.

Instead, on September 9 they delayed the bill until September 23, which required no further action from the state Assembly.

When the Assembly passed the bill on September 6, five days after the Senate did, it was the first time any state legislature had approved a bill to create same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, the only state that presently allows it, follows a ruling by its top court.

Within a day of the bill�s passage, Schwarzenegger�s office said he would veto it, citing the five-year-old Proposition 22, which defines marriage in the state as being between a man and a woman. That measure is currently in the courts, where one judge has already declared it unconstitutional.

Schwarzenegger said that the issue should be left to the people and the courts, not the legislature.

Equality California, the state�s largest LGBT advocacy organization, announced the launch of �Twelve Days to Equality,� an effort to �educate Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and all Californians about marriage equality.�

�The clock is now running, and Gov. Schwarzenegger has a decision to make about his legacy,� Geoffrey Kors, the group�s executive director, said. �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.�

The campaign began by highlighting the benefits the bill would have for LGBT seniors.

�Because we were not allowed to marry, I was denied his pension, access to his Social Security survivor benefits, and my health insurance was canceled,� said Marvin Burrows. His partner of over 50 years passed away last year.

�Without these protections, I had to move from our home that we had shared for 36 years to stay financially afloat,� he continued.

Even if had they been allowed to marry, Burrows would not have gotten Social Security survivor benefits. Social Security is a federal program, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as an opposite-sex institution for federal purposes.

In addition to many lawmakers who voted for the measure and members of the general public, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who ran against Schwarzenegger in the special election that toppled Gov. Gray Davis, sent the governor a letter urging him to sign the legislation.

Bustamante is the highest-ranking Latino politician in the state, and his actions carry great weight with the Latino community.

While Christian conservatives are pleased that Schwarzenegger said he will veto the bill, his statement that it should be left to the courts has angered some of them.

After the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts approved same-sex marriage in 2003, far-right pundits starting speaking out against �activist judges� legislating from the bench, apparently defining the term as any judge who rules against their interests.

Advocates for LGBT rights in California believe Schwarzenegger�s promised veto is due to threats from the far right to stay away from the polls on November 8, when the governor has a number of initiatives on the ballot.

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