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California ‘gay marriage’ bill goes to Schwarzenegger

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–For the second time in two years, the California legislature has sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would legalize “gay marriage.”

Schwarzenegger is expected to veto it, just like he did to a similar bill in 2005.

The California Senate passed the bill, AB 43, 22-15 along a strict party-line vote, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it. The assembly passed the same bill in June, 42-34.

The senate’s action came barely a week after a judge in Iowa issued a 62-page decision ordering the state to legalize “gay marriage,” although the ruling is being appealed. With state supreme courts in Connecticut and Maryland expected to hand down “gay marriage” decisions any day, the issue is threatening to become a topic of the 2008 presidential race, similar to 2004, when 11 marriage amendments passed on Election Day in reaction to the Massachusetts’ highest court legalizing “gay marriage.”

Jimmy Barrentine, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa, wrote in a Baptist Press column that he is encouraging Christians in his state to speak the truth in love about marriage and homosexuality. He also said some secular media representatives have been disappointed that his comments about the decision weren’t edgier.

“They were not satisfied with my expressed view that what we believe has nothing to do with any lack of love for people in the homosexual community,” Barrentine wrote. “They apparently wanted to present me as an angry person anxious to spill out hateful and vindictive words against the homosexual community.”

Homosexuals, he wrote, “are not beyond the reach of God’s love.” Nor, he said, “should they be beyond our love.”

“[W]e are not informed by our own opinions regarding such matters. We are informed and led by Scripture,” he wrote, referring to the definition of marriage. “Scripture defines marriage as a faithful, lifelong covenant between a man and a woman. That is a value that believers are not free to dismiss.”

The California bill seeks to overturn Proposition 22, a law approved by voters in 2000 that protects the natural definition of marriage. It passed by a margin of 61-39 percent.

In February, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, referenced Proposition 22 in telling a high school student at a YMCA event that he would once again veto the bill.

“I wouldn’t sign it because the people of California have voted on that issue,” he said.

Voters, he said, “should make the decision.”

“But it should not be me or the legislature,” he said.

Conservatives in California say the bill is unconstitutional because, under the state constitution, a voter-approved initiative can be overturned only by voters. Article II, Section 10 of the California constitution says the legislature “may amend or repeal an initiative statute … only when approved by the electors.”

But even if Schwarzenegger follows through on his promised veto, the cultural battle in the state is far from over: The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit that would legalize “gay marriage.”

Pro-family leaders in California want to pass a constitutional marriage amendment but have been hampered by divisions within their own ranks. The split centers on how strongly worded a proposed amendment should be. One coalition, under the umbrella name of VoteYesMarriage.com, wants to ban “gay marriage” and also same-sex domestic partnerships, which already are legal and grant couples the state legal benefits of marriage. Technically, domestic partnerships could continue, but not in their current form and only if they served as a registry and didn’t grant marriage’s legal benefits.

But officials with the other coalition, under the name of ProtectMarriage.com, privately say such an amendment would lose at the ballot in the left-leaning state. Their coalition is promoting an amendment that would ban only “gay marriage.” VoteYesMarriage.com officials say their amendment can win.

Pro-family organizations such as Focus on the Family are backing the ProtectMarriage.com campaign. The VoteYesMarriage.com group has the support of such organizations as the American Family Association.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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