Arnold Schwarzenegger. Photo by Rex Wockner. Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors.
He did it again.
For the second time in three years, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Oct. 12 vetoed a bill passed by the state Legislature legalizing same-sex marriage.
And for the second time in three years, the state's gay and lesbian population yawned or didn't notice—even though these two bills mark the only times any U.S. state legislature ever has voted to open marriage to same-sex couples.
'I am returning Assembly Bill 43 without my signature,' Schwarzenegger said.
'As I stated in vetoing similar legislation in 2005, I am proud California is a leader in recognizing and respecting domestic partnerships. I believe that all Californians are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation. I support current domestic partnership rights and will continue to vigorously defend and enforce these rights.
'In 2000, the voters approved Proposition 22, a challenge to which is currently pending before the California Supreme Court,' Schwarzenegger said. 'I maintain my position that the appropriate resolution to this issue is to allow the Court to rule on Proposition 22.'
Contrary to Schwarzenegger's repeated suggestions, Prop 22 seemingly didn't ban same-sex marriage. Instead, it prohibited California from recognizing same-sex marriages that take place in other states and countries, by amending a section of state law called 'Foreign Marriages.'
A decision in the Supreme Court case—which is more than just a challenge to Prop 22—is expected in 2008. If the court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, it likely will both strike down Prop 22 and find that the state is violating one or more parts of the state constitution in refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples within California.
A favorable ruling from the court, which is quite possible, likely would spur anti-gay activists to attempt to use the ballot-initiative process to amend the state constitution to undo the ruling. They also have said they might try to erase the state's domestic-partnership law, which grants registered same-sex couples all state-level rights and obligations of marriage.
Among those 'rights' is the paperwork nightmare for registered gay couples of being required to file their state income taxes as married while having to file their federal income taxes individually. Schwarzenegger signed another bill Oct. 12 that attempts to address that ordeal by creating a new worksheet to help same-sex couples navigate the quagmire.
Besides right-wing Web sites and an Associated Press reporter, one entity that did notice Schwarzenegger's veto was the state's gay lobby group, Equality California ( EQCA ) .
'Today, Gov. Schwarzenegger refused to lift the cloud of discrimination that hangs over millions of Californians and their families,' said Executive Director Geoff Kors. 'With the people of California increasingly in support of marriage for same-sex couples and the Legislature once again affirming fairness and equality, the governor stands alone in perpetuating discrimination against same-sex couples. With the stroke of his pen, he has denied countless loving couples the joy and validation he and the First Lady experienced when they got married. Equality California will not rest until we have achieved full equality for the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.'
Equality California has delivered petitions to Schwarzenegger, held meetings with his staff ( though not with his lesbian chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, who has not responded to invitations ) , placed expensive ads on TV, urged gay Californians to talk to their neighbors about why same-sex marriage is important, and engaged in other polite, inside-the-Sacramento-beltway lobbying.
It is not at all clear, however, that gay Californians—given that they already have all the state rights of marriage—care enough about the word 'marriage' itself to talk to their neighbors.
Equality California and the state's gay population have been similarly unmoved by suggestions such as one put forth in September by ACT UP founder Larry Kramer, who said: 'It's shocking that the gay population in California has been invisible on all this. You ... need to have a massive protest before Schwarzenegger acts. Tell him, 'Sign that bill or else.' You need to have a lot of angry gay people. You tell him, 'We are angry you sold us down the river so far, and we won't let you do it again.''
EQCA and other suit-and-tie activists involved in the marriage fight here have suggested that the days of so-called street activism are history and that such tactics wouldn't 'work' on Schwarzenegger anyway.
That may all be true. In reality, probably the only thing that will work is either electing a Democratic governor or getting a favorable decision from the Supreme Court, then thwarting the right-wing's possible response at the ballot box.
Those are all realistic scenarios.
Schwarzenegger can't run for governor again in 2010 due to term limits. Although he has said that he is not personally opposed to same-sex marriage, key gay activists believe one reason Schwarzenegger keeps vetoing same-sex marriage bills is because he may want to run for the U.S. Senate and doesn't want to provoke the right wing to run a conservative candidate against him in a senatorial primary election.
Besides the bill aimed at fixing the income-tax mess, Schwarzenegger signed six other gay-friendly bills this month.
The Student Civil Rights Act spells out the responsibilities of teachers and school administrators to protect LGBT youth from harassment and bullying.
The Safe Place to Learn Act strengthens youth protections by ensuring that the state's nondiscrimination policies are rigorously enforced.
The Civil Rights Act of 2007 strengthens the ban on anti-LGBT discrimination in government services by writing protective language into numerous specific laws dealing with everything from food stamps to access to beaches.
The Name Equality Act allows registered domestic partners to easily adopt the same last name.
The Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act cancels property-tax increases that hit gays whose partners died before a 2006 law took effect blocking reassessment of such couples' homes. Without the spousal exemption, some surviving gay partners had seen property-tax increases of over 500 percent due to skyrocketing prices in California's housing market over the past decade.
Finally, the Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act aims to protect youth, including LGBT youth, from mistreatment in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities.
'Because of homophobia, many LGBT youth in our society are kicked out of their homes and drop out of school,' said EQCA's Kors. 'As a result, youth who identify as LGBT are disproportionately at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system, where they report being threatened, harassed and subject to isolation by peers and staff members. ... We greatly appreciate Gov. Schwarzenegger's recognition that young people in juvenile justice facilities should get the help and protection they need to get their lives back on track.'