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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Schwarzenegger vetoes landmark ‘gay marriage’ bill; Michigan judge OKs employee benefits

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a landmark “gay marriage” bill Sept. 29, delivering on a promise and rebuffing an intense lobbying effort by homosexual activists.

“I am returning Assembly Bill 849 without my signature because I do not believe the legislature can reverse an initiative approved by the people of California,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The bill would have legalized “gay marriage” in the state but would have faced a lawsuit if signed into law. Five years ago California voters passed an initiative known as Proposition 22 explicitly banning “gay marriage.” The California Constitution forbids the legislature from reversing a voter-backed initiative.

“Article II, section 10 of the California Constitution prohibits the legislature from amending this initiative statute without a vote of the people,” Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said. “This bill does not provide for such a vote.”

The bill squeaked through the California Assembly and Senate in early September, each time getting the minimum number of votes required for passage. It was the first time in American history a legislative body passed a “gay marriage” bill.

Schwarzenegger, through his press secretary, promised Sept. 7 to veto the bill, although Assembly sponsor Mark Leno, an open homosexual and a Democrat, used a procedure to delay its delivery to Schwarzenegger’s desk. That provided Equality California and other homosexual groups more than three weeks to lobby Schwarzenegger to change his mind. The bill finally reached Schwarzenegger Sept. 23.

Supporters of the bill argued that Proposition 22 banned only out-of-state “gay marriages.” Conservatives scoffed at that notion and pointed to the plain language of Proposition 22, which reads in part, “[O]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

“We thank Governor Schwarzenegger for doing the right thing by vetoing ‘gay marriage’ licenses,” Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, said in a statement.

Conservative legal groups also applauded Schwarzenegger’s action.

“The governor did exactly what he needed to do. The legislature cannot lawfully overturn a voter-approved initiative,” Glen Lavy, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, said in a statement. “We hope this veto will be a lesson for lawmakers who are willing to slap the faces of their constituents in order to pursue their own agenda.”

Conservatives are hoping to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot in 2006, but they may be in a race against time. Earlier this year a state judge struck down Proposition 22 and ruled that homosexuals must be given marriage licenses. The ruling is being appealed and likely will eventually end up before the California Supreme Court.

“The governor has simply delayed -– not ended -– the inevitability of marriage equality in California,” Equality California Executive Director Geoffrey Kors said in a statement.

Two conservative coalitions — ProtectMarriage.com and VoteYesMarriage.com — are promoting competing amendments that would ban “gay marriage,” trumping state court rulings. The two groups disagree over what language the amendment should include. Each must gather approximately 600,000 valid signatures.

Even though Schwarzenegger’s veto pleased conservatives, his entire statement did not. He reiterated his support for the state’s domestic partnerships law, which grants same-sex couples most of the legal benefits of marriage.

“I support current domestic partnership rights and will continue to vigorously defend and enforce these rights and as such will not support any rollback,” he said.

Conservatives argue the partnerships violate the spirit of Proposition 22 and have dubbed them “marriage lite.”

MICH. JUDGE ALLOWS BENEFITS — A Michigan state judge ruled Sept. 27 that the state’s marriage amendment does not prohibit public universities and governments from providing health insurance to partners of homosexual employees, the Associated Press reported.

Republican Attorney General Mike Cox previously had issued an opinion saying the amendment banned such benefits. But Judge Joyce Draganchuk disagreed.

“Health care benefits are not among the statutory rights or benefits of marriage,” she wrote, according to AP. “An individual does not receive health benefits for his or her spouse as a matter of legal right upon getting married.”

The amendment passed with 59 percent of the vote last year and made it on the ballot when pro-family groups gathered 464,000 signatures — more than the 317,000 required.

At issue is a section in the amendment that says the “union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

GROUP SUES SALT LAKE CITY MAYOR — The conservative Alliance Defense Fund filed suit Sept. 29 to prevent Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson from extending benefits to domestic partners of unmarried employees. ADF, representing city residents, contends Utah’s voter-backed marriage amendment forbids such an action.

“Utah law prohibits relationships that masquerade as marriage,” ADF attorney Dale Schowengerdt said in a statement. “The mayor’s action blatantly disregards state law.”

Anderson issued the order Sept. 21, providing domestic partner benefits to both homosexual and heterosexual unmarried employees.

Utah’s marriage amendment, one of the more strongly worded in the nation, reads, in part: “No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”

The amendment passed 66-34 percent last November.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust