Gay marriage bill goes to Schwarzenegger

Kevin Yamamura

MCT-With the regular legislative session complete, the battle over eight gay rights bills, including one allowing same-sex marriage, has moved directly to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office. Religious-based critics have asked volunteers to repeatedly dial the Republican governor to voice their opposition to the measures. In one e-mail, the Campaign for Children and Families asks supporters to call and write Schwarzenegger, with one piece of additional advice: “Don’t forget to pray to God.” At the same time, Oakland-based Marriage Equality USA organized statewide rallies Tuesday in 17 cities, including Sacramento, to demand that the governor sign the high-profile bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in California. If past years are any indication, Schwarzenegger will play it right down the middle. The governor has repeatedly said _ most recently Monday _ that he will veto Assembly Bill 43 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, because he believes the marriage bill would thwart the will of voters who approved a 2000 initiative declaring that California only recognizes marriage “between a man and a woman.” But Schwarzenegger has also signed bills in previous years that expanded civil rights protections to gays and lesbians in employment and housing, as well as domestic partnership rights such as the ability to check the “married” box on state tax forms. “To his credit he has signed many of the civil rights bills, and of course we’re very appreciative and cognizant of that,” Leno said. “But there are no shades of equality. If one believes in full equality, then (AB 43) should be signed.” Leno’s bill would define marriage as one that occurs between two people regardless of gender. It does not require any church or religious official to perform a marriage. Schwarzenegger vetoed Leno’s same-sex marriage bill in 2005 by suggesting the proposal would undermine the will of the 61 percent of voters who approved Proposition 22 in 2000. The governor used the same reasoning Monday. “It would be wrong for the people to vote for something, and for me to then overturn it,” Schwarzenegger said. “I don’t do that, I will not do it. And so they can send that bill down as many times as they want, I won’t do it.” AB 43 opponents said Tuesday they believe California voters, seven years after Proposition 22, would vote against Leno’s proposal if it were to appear on the ballot. Gay rights groups say that the electorate’s wishes are unclear because they believe opinions have shifted in their favor. A Field Poll last year showed that 50 percent of registered voters oppose gay marriage while 44 percent support it. A Public Policy Institute of California poll this year showed that 48 percent of likely voters oppose gay marriage, compared to 46 percent in support. “If (proponents) are so confident that the California public has shifted their way, why haven’t they taken gay marriage to the people themselves?” asked Benjamin Lopez, a legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition. “They know they would fall flat on their face and the people of California would reject a gay marriage amendment on the ballot.” For now, Leno said he intends to pursue a bill identical to AB 43 next year if the governor vetoes his legislation this fall. (c) 2007, The Sacramento Bee

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