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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 14, 2007


California passes full marriage
a second time

But governor vows a veto, again

Sacramento--For the second time in two years, the California legislature has passed a bill opening full marriage to same-sex couples.

And., like he did two years ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he will veto the measure.

The California Senate passed the bill with a 22 to 15 vote on September 7, three months after the Assembly passed it on a 42 to 34 vote.

Schwarzenegger has until October 14 to sign or veto the bill. After that, it will become law without his signature.

The legislation, openly gay Assemblyman Mark Leno’s third attempt to pass a “gender-neutral” marriage law, would define marriage as being between two persons.

Opponents of the measure say that it contradicts the will of the people, who in 2000 approved a law prohibiting recognition of same sex marriages. But Leno says the 2000 law applies only to marriages from other states, not ones entered in California.

Current polls show that 47 percent of Californians think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 46 percent think it should be restricted to heterosexual couples.

The constitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban is currently before the state’s supreme court.

When he vetoed similar legislation two years ago, Schwarzenegger said it was for the courts to decide on the matter, not him.

Leno first introduced a marriage bill in 2004, just after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom started performing marriages in the city.

The state supreme court later cancelled the 4,000 marriages that the mayor and his officials had performed, saying he had overstepped his authority.

Newsom opened marriage after seeing George W. Bush call for a federal amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman in his State of the Union address.

California presently has a domestic partner law that grants all of the state rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, except the word itself.

Plaintiffs in the present supreme court case--including some of the San Francisco couples--argue that this is not enough. Activists say that marriage is universally recognized while “domestic partnership” is not, and that the partnerships are a “separate but equal” second-class status.

While Schwarzenegger has indicated that he will again veto this bill, the moderate governor is currently in conflict with more right-wing elements in the state Republican Party over its platform.

Schwarzenegger wants to keep the platform short, centering around a core of beliefs espoused by Ronald Reagan, like small government, lowering taxes, and strong national defense.

The state platform currently is over ten pages long, opposing same-sex couples’ benefits in both domestic partner and marital form, supporting the overturning of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion and opposing limits on gun ownership.

Schwarzenegger’s proposed one-page platform includes none of those issues.

Moderates in the party argue that they must move to the political center or risk becoming an afterthought in California, known for a diverse population and left-wing leanings.

“We call on the governor to rise above right-wing ideology, as he has on many other issues, by signing this bill,” said Geoff Kors, head of Equality California. “By a new legislature passing this bill with an even larger margin than in 2005, our elected representatives have shown that the people of our state strongly support equality and fairness.”

“The governor should keep up with the will of the people and show the kind of bold bi-partisan leadership on this issue that will define his place in history,” Kors continued.

Massachusetts is the only state that currently allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. However, a 1913 law originally intended to stop interracial marriages limits it to couples from that state and others with no laws expressly prohibiting it, currently Rhode Island and New Mexico.

Same-sex couples may also marry in South Africa, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada, which has no residency requirement. U.S. couples can travel north to Canada and marry with no delay except in Québec, which requires a 20-day wait.

Besides California, other states that have passed domestic partner laws similar to marriage are Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey (which calls them civil unions), New Hampshire (spousal unions) and Oregon. The Oregon measure may be challenged by a referendum. Limited partnership laws exist in Hawaii, Maine, Washington and the District of Columbia.



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