McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Campaign materials from two of
the organizations lobbying Gov.
Schwarzenegger on gay marriage.
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.
He and gay rights activists disputed Schwarzenegger's reasoning that Proposition 22 precludes the governor from signing the legislation. Leno insisted that the initiative applies only to whether California endorses gay marriages performed in other states.
Wendy Hill, 33, chair of the Sacramento Stonewall Democrats Women's Caucus, said she thinks the governor plans to veto AB 43 for the political purpose of retaining Republican support.
"I think he's been OK on incremental things, but the incremental things help some people and not others," said Hill, who spoke at the Capitol rally. "It's time for total equality. This is the Scotch tape approach."
Leno said that pursuing his bill a third time next year would be helpful because the state Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether same-sex marriages are legal. He said that if the court rules that they are legal, legislation such as his would be required to clean up existing law.
Geoff Kors, director of Equality California, added that the governor should not allow public opinion to dictate whether he signs AB 43. He said he does not foresee pursuing a ballot measure allowing same-sex marriage because it would set a bad precedent of allowing voters to decide which groups of people should be protected.
"I think every civil rights group would agree that you don't put a minority group's rights up to a vote for the people," Kors said. "It's up to the Legislature and courts to ensure that minorities' rights are protected in this country."
Among other bills Schwarzenegger will consider over the next three weeks:
—Assembly Bill 102 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, to allow individuals to change their names when they register for domestic partnership.
—Senate Bill 777 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, to consistently apply anti-discrimination language related to sexual orientation and gender identity throughout the state's education code.
—Assembly Bill 14 by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, to prohibit discrimination by government programs and businesses on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Kors said he applauds the governor for signing more than two-thirds of gay rights bills but that Schwarzenegger's promise to veto the same-sex marriage bill "sends a devastating message" that gays and lesbians are not equal.
Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, said SB 777 would cause schools to promote gays and lesbians in their curriculum. But Kuehl said the bill does not refer to curriculum at the request of the governor, who vetoed a similar proposal last year.
"These bills are going to turn a lot of society on its head," Thomasson said.
Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bills, aside from his remarks on AB 43.
(c) 2007, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).
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