California assembly passes same-sex marriage bill


26 (100%)

Legislature OKs Gay Marriage

Assembly action sends the bill to the governor, who has signaled that he will veto the measure.

By Nancy Vogel, Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature made history Tuesday as the Assembly passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

With no votes to spare, California's lawmakers became the first in the United States to act without a court order to sanction gay marriages. The measure was approved after three Democratic lawmakers who abstained on a similar proposal that failed in June changed their minds under intense lobbying by bill author Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and gay and civil rights activists.

No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Forty-one of the Assembly's 47 Democrats voted yes; four Democrats voted "no," and two abstained.

The bill, which would change California's legal definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to a "civil contract between two persons," now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has signaled that he will veto it.

Tuesday's vote came after 23 lawmakers addressed the chamber, many of them focusing on the historic element of their action, others relating intensely personal stories.

In a moment of high drama, with dozens of gay rights supporters watching from the gallery, Simon Salinas (D-Salinas) hesitated for several seconds as the tally hung at 40 "ayes" — one short of passage. Then, having promised Leno months ago that he would not let the bill fail, Salinas pressed the "aye" button on his desk, making the final vote 41-35.

Those seconds "seemed like an eternity," said Mark Guzman of El Dorado Hills, as he and his partner of 14 years, J. Scott Coatsworth, celebrated in the Capitol rotunda after the voting.

In addition to Salinas, Assembly members Tom Umberg of Anaheim and Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Chino provided key votes. Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton), who had missed the floor vote in June, also helped the bill prevail.

Assemblyman Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood) — one of the lawmakers who abstained in June, when Leno's bill fell four votes short — withheld his vote again Tuesday. Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) abstained after having voted "no" in June. Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr. (D-Rialto) also abstained Tuesday.

Two of the lawmakers who switched their votes from abstain to "aye" said in floor speeches that they were glad for another chance.

Umberg elicited applause and whoops in the otherwise hushed chamber when he described why he had changed his mind. He said he had been "cajoled, been harassed, been harangued and been threatened" by friends over the issue.

"This is one of those times when history looks upon us to see where we are," Umberg said. "Ten years from now, there are a handful of issues that history will record where we stood, and this is one of those issues.

"History will record whether we pushed a bit, took the lead to encourage tolerance, to encourage equality to encourage fairness," he said.

"The constituency I'm concerned about is a very small one," said Umberg, "and that's the constituency of my three children, should they decide to look back on my record … and reflect on where I was when we could make a difference."

Negrete-McLeod similarly said she regretted abstaining in June.

Some Republicans dismissed the historic significance of the vote and said gay marriage is not an issue of civil rights. Others criticized Leno for reviving the bill after the June defeat and called gay marriage immoral.

"The institution of marriage transcends political fads," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Murrieta). "We are talking about an institution that has been defined for thousands of years … and we are being asked to engage in a great social experiment."

The fight over same-sex marriage will now shift to the governor's office — and to the courts and perhaps the ballot box. A case testing the legality of gay marriage is moving toward the state Supreme Court, and opponents of same-sex marriage are trying to qualify two initiatives to ban the practice for the ballot next year.

Leno characterized gay marriage as the most important civil rights issue of the 21st century. He enlisted Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, and Alice Huffman, California president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, to help him lobby undecided lawmakers.

Huerta said she spoke to Salinas last week and "went back to our old culture, the Latino culture."

"Respecting other people's rights is peace," she said. "Respecting other people's rights to marry who they want is a constitutional right, it's a human right and it's a privacy right. I said to Simon, 'You've got to be a leader. … You've got to have courage.' "

Foes of same-sex marriage call Leno's bill unconstitutional, saying it overturns what citizens put into law five years ago when they passed Proposition 22 with 61% of the vote. That initiative said that only marriage between a man and a woman was valid and recognized in California.,1,5420306.story?coll=la-news-politics-california

In a strange twist of republicans accusing judges of being "activists", schwarzenegger issued a statement saying he thinks it's best left to the couts to decide.

office of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has previously opposed gay marriage, issued a statement saying he believes that the issue is best decided in the courts.

I'm sorry... but I just have to emphasis this part: "The constituency I'm concerned about is a very small one," said Umberg, "and that's the constituency of my three children, should they decide to look back on my record … and reflect on where I was when we could make a difference."

I see what hes trying to say, but someone could really take that as 'I don't give a damn about anyone BUT my children"
[quote name='Sleepkyng']ah, fags - what horrible vile people!

trying to live in peace the way they want to...

thank god I live in Vermont. :D[/QUOTE]

Well, MA beats you there, and burke, VT is hell.
[quote name='Sleepkyng']ah, fags - what horrible vile people! trying to live in peace the way they want to...[/QUOTE]

Yes, where are the war-mongers when we need them? Shouldn't we be invading another foreign country based on negligible intelligence about now? :D
Hey, I feel that gay people should have this right just to help out the marriage statistics because from what I've seen gays stay in relationships way longer than straight folks.
In a way, this is the perfect time to pass the law....especially now since Bush is getting beaten up in the press about his slow response to the Katrina problem.
WASHINGTON — Though California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) has promised to veto a bill by the Assembly that would permit gay marriage because he says it goes against the will of the state's people.

But some groups aren't happy to hear that while many Republicans have been arguing that justices around the country have been engaging in judicial activism as they interpret the Constitution in ways that allow gay marraige, the governor prefers that the courts handle the issue.

"It's not an issue for the courts — he's inviting judicial activism and that's what we're opposed to," said Rich Ackerman, spokesman for the Pro-Family Legal Center, which is fighting gay marriage efforts in California.

"I've never heard of any Republican who's actually looking to the courts to decide," said Peter LaBarbera, head of Protect Marriage Illinois, which is trying to get a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Illinois. He said he was disappointed with Schwarzenegger's comments. "That's sort of a naïve view, or just passing the buck," he added.

When the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in 2003 that the state constitution permits same-sex marriage (search), opponents lamented that the court, not the Legislature, was able to decide the issue for Massachusetts residents. It was this ruling that led some conservatives to charge that courts have become too activist and socially liberal for the good of the country.

Some see Schwarzenegger's position as ironic.

"Now Governor Schwarzenegger is complaining and saying that the issue of same-sex marriage should be settled by the courts and not by legislation," said Roberta Sklar, spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The reality is, political games are being played with peoples' lives."

In 2000, California voters approved by 61 percent Proposition 22, which created a state statute that recognizes marriage as only between a man and a woman. The statute is now being debated in California's lower courts.

Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, has said that the governor views Proposition 22 as the will of the people, and believes that the courts need to settle that issue without the Legislature's intervention. On Wednesday, his office officially announced that he would veto the pro-gay marriage bill passed by the Assembly on Tuesday.

"We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote," said Thompson, who added that the governor is a strong supporter of California's current domestic partnership protections. "Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto."

In an earlier statement, Thompson said Proposition 22 was approved, went to the courts, "and the governor believes that is where it should be decided. It's an issue for the people and the courts."

Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families, which is heading an effort to get a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages on the California state ballot in 2006, said the governor was "half right" in his comments.

It should be left up to the people, "it should not be left up to the courts," said Thomasson, who added that since a majority of Californians passed Proposition 22, they will pass a constitutional amendment, too.

"I believe so because Californians are fed up with politicians and judges attacking their wishes, attacking their vote," he said.

Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution scholar and former advisor to California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, noted that this issue will likely end up in the courts.

Letting the courts decide "is not the sort of language the activists might like, but the governor is not the end game here, the ballot initiative is," he said.

"If it [constitutional amendment] passes, yeah, it will go into court in two seconds," Whalen added.

Meanwhile, gay marriage advocates are disappointed with Schwarzenegger's promise to veto what they say is the first legislative victory for gay marriage the history of the country. The Vermont and Connecticut state legislatures passed civil union (search), not marriage, laws in 2000 and 2005, respectively.

"He decided to side with the cynical view of politics instead of the right side of history," said Brad Luna, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.

Currently, 18 states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages, and several more are poised to bring such amendments to their voters in 2005 and 2006. So far, a federal marriage amendment has failed to get off the ground, but many believe the gay marriage question will eventually land in the lap of the U.S Supreme Court, which makes the urgency surrounding the two current vacancies on that court more dramatic.

"The disaster would be a national, Roe v. Wade (search) decision on this issue," said LaBarbera, referring to the 1973 U.S Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal despite state bans on the procedure.

Getting a more conservative court would be advantageous to those who opposes gay marriage, Whalen said. If the case were to decide whether states had the right to ban or allow gay marriages or civil unions, a more conservative court might choose not to review it, citing states' rights, he added.

"There are surprises that occur, and it would depend on how the case is presented before the court," said Whalen, noting that one must consider the individual justice and his or her views, as well as the issue.

However, groups on both sides are already getting involved in the nomination of John Roberts (search) to be chief justice of the U.S Supreme Court.

"Judge Roberts as chief justice threatens decades of a federal court system tipped against equality," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a recent statement.

Gay-rights groups believe conservatives will not see gay marriage as a federal civil rights issue.

Conservatives and opponents of gay marriage, on the other hand — underscoring their desires to see such issues stay out of the courts — believe Roberts to be a strict constructionist who will take a federalist, states' rights position when needed.

"Our children and grandchildren will be impacted for good if the president appoints constitutionalists to the court who respect the Constitution and our legal system," the Traditional Values Coalition, which is battling gay marriage in the states, said in a statement when Roberts was first nominated in July. "We will no longer be dominated by a liberal 5-4 majority on the court who impose their own political views on all of us.",2933,168985,00.html

Personally, I think he supported gay marriage, but is fully aware of the effect it would have on his political future. It's not worth the potential harm to his future image (though it would probably help his legacy historically). And I think he knows that the courts will support gay marriage.

Also, I don't see any way that any supreme court (state or federal) could rule against it when it's a matter of constitutional law, barring states where gay marriage is banned in the constitution. If a ruling is to be made (and not deferred as a states rights issue), I can't see any justification in any constitution (except if banned) for ruling against it.
Schwartzenegger needs to cut the CRAP. I left a message on his e-mail decrying what he's doing. He labels himself as a Social Liberal or seems to be one by his stances so I have one thing to say: Put up or shut up chump. If he vetoes this I hope ALL the Democrats and Liberals bash the shit out of him saying he's a Social Conservative as well and NEVER let up.
Honestly Arnold needs to leave gays alone since he has his own "perversions", I'm sure.
[quote name='Sarang01']Honestly Arnold needs to leave gays alone since he has his own "perversions", I'm sure.[/QUOTE]

Sure does... ever check out those rude banana hammocks he's fond of sporting while on vacation? Where are the activist judges when you need them? :roll:

Anyway, doesn't it shock any of you that it's **2005** and we're still struggling with civil rights issues? I know societal attitudes can take a long time to shift, but crap in a hat, man... this stuff should all be settled by now.
Ok so they go from extremely conservative last week with the video game bill to extremely liberal on this bill this week. Can they decide where they stand or what?
bread's done