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Bush: San Fran. ‘weddings’ are ‘influencing’ decision on amendment

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush said Feb. 18 that San Francisco’s decision to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples is influencing his decision whether to back a constitutional marriage amendment.

“I strongly believe that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman,” he told reporters while meeting with Tunisia’s president. “I am troubled by activist judges who are defining marriage.

“I have watched carefully what’s happened in California where licenses were being issued even though the law states otherwise. I have consistently stated that … I support law to protect marriage between a man and a woman. And obviously, these events are influencing my decision.”

A Gallup poll of 1,002 adults Feb. 9-12 showed that 53 percent favor an amendment, 44 percent oppose it.

Bush was asked if he was “close to a decision” as to whether he will support a constitutional amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage.

He did not directly answer the question but said, “[I’m] watching very carefully. But I’m troubled by what I’ve seen. People need to be involved with this decision. Marriage ought to be defined by the people, not by the courts.”

Bush reportedly has told Republican legislators he eventually will back an amendment. His likely Democratic rival in the election, John Kerry, opposes it.

The “weddings” continued in San Francisco Feb. 18 after two judges the previous day refused to put an immediate halt to them.

One of the judges, James L. Warren, told the city to “cease and desist” the issuance of licenses or to come back to court March 29 and explain why they had not stopped. But the order was non-binding, and the Alliance Defense Fund — which is representing the Proposition 22 Legal Defense Education Fund — is considering an appeal.

In the other case, Judge Ronald Evans Quidachay said he wouldn’t hear the case until Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. He told the Liberty Counsel, which is representing the Campaign for California Families, that it had not given the city enough notice to obtain an injunction. The Liberty Counsel filed an appeal with the state appeals court, asking the justices to require the city to follow state law. Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement that the lawsuit is on two tracks — one before Quidachay and one before the appeals court.

California is one of 38 states to explicitly ban the recognition of same-sex “marriages.” In 2000 California voters, by a margin of 61-38 percent, passed a proposition that reads, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who ordered the licenses issued, says the California state constitution allows same-sex “marriages.” He released a statement after the court rulings saying the disobedience would continue.

“The issue here is simple: the state’s Constitution does not permit discrimination at all, anywhere,” Newsom said in the statement. “We are in full compliance with our state’s equal protection clause prohibiting discrimination in any form. While some may believe that separate and unequal institutions are acceptable, we will oppose intolerance and discrimination every step of the way. San Francisco is a city of tolerance and mutual respect and we will accept nothing less than full civil rights for all our residents.”

The Associated Press reported that at the current pace more than 3,000 same-sex couples will have been granted marriage license by Feb. 20. The issue has been so popular in San Francisco that the city newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, has published a series of “wedding” photos in an online “same-sex wedding album.”

The San Francisco controversy has overshadowed the debate in Massachusetts, where a high court has ruled that same-sex couples must be granted licenses under the state constitution. Ironically, the two court cases Feb. 17 took place exactly three months before same-sex couples will be granted marriage licenses 3,000 miles away in Massachusetts. Legal experts say that, barring something unforeseen, marriage licenses will be given to same-sex couples in the Bay State May. 17.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement Feb. 17 asking San Francisco to obey state law.

“I support all of California’s existing laws that provide domestic partnership benefits and protections,” the governor said in his statement. “However, Californians spoke on the issue of same-sex marriage when they overwhelmingly approved California’s law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. I support that law and encourage San Francisco officials to obey that law. The courts should act quickly to resolve this matter.”
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  • Michael Foust