Schwarzenegger expected to veto California's 'gender-neutral' marriage bill

Chrys Hudson | September 11, 2007

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Once again, the hopes and dreams of California�s gay and lesbian couples are in the hands of actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For the second time in three years, the California Legislature has approved a bill to give the state�s same-sex couples the right to marry.

The California state Senate approved the bill, known as A.B. 43 and authored by Assembly member Mark Leno and sponsored by Equality California, on Friday. The bill had passed the California Assembly by a vote of 42 to 34 in early June and now goes to the governor�s desk for consideration. The governor must take action on all bills by Oct. 14.

The California Assembly first passed marriage equality legislation by a 41-to-35 vote on Sept. 6, 2005. The California Senate passed the measure on Sept. 1, 2005, by a 21-to-15 vote. The legislation was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The governor is once again expected to veto the "gender-neutral" bill, which would amend California's Family Code to define marriage as a civil contract between two persons.

Critics of the measure support Schwarzenegger�s veto, saying Californians already spoke their minds on the topic in 2000 when they approved Proposition 22, which barred recognition of same-sex marriage in the state by defining marriage as between a man and woman only.

"We see A.B. 43 as yet another heavy-handed, blatant attempt for Mark Leno and Co. to skirt the current restrictions in law that prevents same-sex marriages in California," Benjamin Lopez, a lobbyist for the Traditional Values Coalition, told the San Francisco Chronicle following Friday�s vote.

Gov. Schwarzenegger himself hasn�t yet commented on the bill, though his spokesman, Aaron McLear, recently told the Associated Press that the governor �intends to respect the results of the 2000 referendum.�

The odds may be against them, but gay rights groups haven�t given up hope that the bill will be signed. "For the second time, California�s elected representatives have passed legislation ensuring equality for all of the state�s families," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a recent statement.

"We urge Gov. Schwarzenegger to think about how the history books will remember this decision," he added. "He has an opportunity before him to be remembered as a courageous governor who stood up for equal treatment under the law for all families. We applaud Equality California and the Legislature for their leadership in passing this historic measure."

Masen Davis, executive director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center (TLC), also called on the governor to consider the ramifications of his actions on the bill before him.

�With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Schwarzenegger has a historic opportunity to make sure that married members of the transgender community can rest more easily knowing that their partnerships are protected,� David said in a statement. �We estimate that thousands of transgender people and their spouses throughout California – who are in perfectly lawful marriages – still experience anxiety about whether their marriage will ever be challenged simply because of their gender identity.�

�The Governor has said time and again that he is invested in moving all of California forward together. Now it is time for him to stand by those words and make sure that all families in our state are equally protected,� added TLC Deputy Director Cecilia Chung. �He can't possibly think his family is more worthy of legal protection than ours. However, if he once again vetoes A.B. 43, he'll be saying exactly that to LGBT people from every county in California.� – Issued by Gay Link Content

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