The political battle over same-sex "marriage" in California heated up December 6 when state legislators introduced competing bills — one legalizing "gay marriage," the other banning it within the state constitution.
The bills were introduced two weeks before a California state judge is scheduled to hear a case by activists seeking to legalize same-sex "marriage." That case, along with the two bills, means that California will remain front-and-center in the national "gay marriage" debate in 2005.
In fact, the issue shows no signs of disappearing nationally.
A New Jersey appeals court heard a same-sex "marriage" case December 7. Washington state's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a same-sex "marriage" case in March. In Massachusetts — the only state with legalized "gay marriage" — the legislature is expected to consider a marriage amendment sometime in 2005. All total, nine states are defending their marriage laws in state courts. In addition, seven lawsuits are pending against the federal Defense of Marriage Act – the law that gives states such as California the option of not recognizing another state's same-sex "marriage."
The marriage amendment in California was introduced by state Assemblyman Ray Haynes and Senator Bill Morrow, both Republicans. It would ban both same-sex "marriage" and civil unions and also would reverse California's domestic partnership law, which was scheduled to take effect in January.
"We have the public behind us," said Ben Lopez, a California lobbyist with the Traditional Values Coalition and a supporter of the marriage amendment. "It's a matter of putting the legislature on the spot and seeing if the legislature is going to follow the public's lead or whether they're going to thumb their noses at the public. We're sick and tired of playing defense. We're going on the offense this time. We're going to put them on the spot."
Pro-family groups in California were stunned last year when San Francisco defied state law by issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The California Supreme Court eventually invalidated all 4,000 licenses, saying that the city's mayor had no authority to do what he did.
But liberal and homosexual activists aren't giving up in their attempt to legalize same-sex "marriage" in the country's most populous state. In December, they asked a San Francisco judge to overturn state law and legalize "gay marriage;" the case likely will end up before the state Supreme Court.
In addition, Assemblyman Mark Leno — a San Francisco Democrat and an open homosexual — introduced a bill December 6 that would legalize same-sex "marriage." Leno's bill actually passed a committee last year before he pulled it; it did not receive a floor vote. The bill has a prominent supporter in Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
But not all Democrats are supportive. Some point to the national election results, when eleven states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex "marriage."
"Not every Democrat represents Los Angeles or San Francisco," Democratic Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla told the San Francisco Chronicle. "There are a number of members [of the Democratic caucus] who think this is a mistake."
Leno, though, brushes off such criticism.
"Why play defense?" he told the Chronicle. "It makes more sense to speak about this plainly as a civil rights issue. Equal protection is guaranteed under the constitution."
Leno's bill would conflict with a law passed by voters in 2000 that bans same-sex "marriage." It passed by a margin of 61-39 percent.
"Leno is attempting to circumvent the will of the people by amending a competing part of state code," Lopez, of the Traditional Values Coalition, told Baptist Press. "… I think the battle is on to see who gets to the finish line first as to who will win the marriage debate. We intend to make sure that the goodhearted people of California prevail."
A constitutional amendment must pass two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate — a tall task in a liberal-leaning body — before going to voters for final approval.
"This is an uphill battle, but nonetheless, we're going to raise the issue," Lopez said. "We're going to throw the issue out there."
A constitutional amendment also could be placed on the ballot through the initiative process of collecting signatures. To date, though, no such effort has begun.
"We are open to the idea," Lopez said.
It is not known where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, stands on Leno's bill.
"I think he has been pretty clear in saying he thinks this should be done by a vote of the people or through the courts," his press secretary, Margita Thompson, told the Chronicle.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.