Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Gov's veto fuels LGBT anger


Gays took to the streets in the Castro September 30 toprotest Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of the same-sex marriage bill.Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Add LGBTs and their allies to the long list of constituents in California who are out to derail Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's agenda this November and remove him from office next year. By vetoing the state's landmark gay marriage bill, and waffling on his supposed belief in equality for same-sex couples, the governor now faces the ire of the gay community, which already is mobilizing against him.

Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, which would have made the state's marriage laws gender-neutral, Thursday, September 29 and on Friday, September 30 close to 400 people rallied at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro to denounce the governor's action. Speakers stood next to a cardboard cutout of the governor dressed as the title character in the movie Terminator wearing a sign that read "shame on me."

"We need to take this personally and go out there and fight for our rights," said openly gay city Treasurer Jose Cisneros.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is nothing but a speed bump, a scrawny little footnote. We will run right over him," said Molly McKay, associate director with Equality California, the statewide LGBT rights group that organized rallies in cities across the state last week.  

Kendra Aubalin, 34, who became engaged to her partner, Aimee Gross, 33, on June 1, said the San Francisco couple still intended to marry next year despite not having the same legal protections and rights as heterosexual couples who wed.

"It is not stopping us from getting married. We are getting married anyway," she said.

Gross added that the couple plans to send the governor a wedding invitation for their ceremony on July 2, 2006.

"We think all gay people getting married should send invites to the governor," said Gross.

Despite knowing the governor intended to veto the bill, Aubalin said it still stung when his decision became official.

"I just felt so deeply disappointed. My life is nobody else's business," she said. "I felt heartbroken. I still do."

John Davis joined his partner Bryan Nadeau and son Myles Nadeau at the rally to express his disappointment with the governor. He said his biggest worry in not having the right to marry Nadeau is if he will have legal standing to make medical decisions for his partner and son. And he criticized Schwarzenegger for giving in to his conservative base.

"He said he would be for all Californians and he is not," said Davis.

In his veto message to the state Legislature, the first in the country to pass a progay marriage bill, Schwarzenegger said he could not sign AB849, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act authored by state Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), because of the passage of Proposition 22 in 2000. The measure defined marriage as between a man and a woman and restricted California from recognizing gay marriages performed out of state.

"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," wrote Schwarzenegger. "I am proud California is a leader in recognizing and respecting domestic partnerships and the equal rights of domestic partners. I believe that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationships. I support current domestic partnership rights and will continue to vigorously defend and enforce these rights and as such will not support any rollback."

Schwarzenegger also cited the ongoing court battle over the state's marriage laws sparked by Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to order city officials to marry same-sex couples in 2004 as also impacting his reasoning in why he should not sign the marriage bill into law.

"The ultimate issue regarding the constitutionality of [the state's laws] and its prohibition against same-sex marriage is currently before the Court of Appeal in San Francisco and will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. This bill simply adds confusion to a constitutional issue. If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, this bill is not necessary. If the ban is constitutional, this bill is ineffective," he wrote.

The argument held little sway over those at the Friday night rally. Some carried signs calling for the governor to be recalled, while others held blown-up pictures of Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, on their wedding day with the message domestic partnership does not equal marriage.

Time to 'kick ass'

"Well friends, he said he was going to do it and he did it. We asked him kindly. We were as mainstream as Lucy and Ricardo, as Will & Grace, as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. He vetoed it anyway," said the Reverend Mark Wilson, a Baptist minister and single "husband-seeking" gay African American. "What time is it? It is time to kick some ass."

Leno told the crowd it is time California elect a new governor who would not be afraid to sign the bill into law.

"This bill will become law and we can't wait," he said. "If he can't sign it we will go out next year and elect somebody who will."

Leno also asked the crowd to spread the word that the LGBT community needs to go to the polls November 8 to defeat those measures on the ballot being pushed by Schwarzenegger.

"Make sure everyone knows about this special election. He said no to us so we say no to him," said Leno.

At the same time, Leno challenged the governor and his wife to join him as statewide co-chairs of the effort to defeat antigay constitutional amendments likely to be on the ballot in 2006.

Leno then issued a warning to any politicians who stand in the way of equal rights for LGBT people. 

"If they play politics with our lives, we'll get deadly serious with their political lives," he said. "This is a righteous battle and we can't lose when we stand up and speak the truth about our lives. We will prevail."

Swift rebuke

Last Thursday, Democratic leaders swiftly denounced Schwarzenegger's veto. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) criticized the governor for letting "the courts make the tough decisions for him," adding, "Instead of choosing the way of the future the Governor has aligned himself with the enemies of equal rights for all."

State Controller and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly, who supports marriage equality, also assailed the governor, saying, "Schwarzenegger has once again kowtowed to his right-wing base and vetoed this landmark legislation that would have created true marriage equality in our state. With today's action, this governor has cemented his place in history as an obstacle in the great civil rights battle of the day."

Newsom, who held a press conference shortly after the governor's announcement, stated, "This is about basic, fundamental rights. It's about laying a foundation of equality for everybody, and he missed a golden opportunity to stand on history and to do something that is noble and appropriate. By no means was this a profile in courage. What a wasted moment for his administration."

Gay Republicans also lashed out at Schwarzenegger, who ran for governor as a moderate Republican said to be supportive of gay rights. Patrick Guerriero, Log Cabin Republicans president, said his organization would "take the governor at his word, that if, and when, the courts of California join the legislature in recognizing the right to civil marriage equality, he will uphold and support that decision."

The group did thank the governor for signing other progay legislation into law and for "sending a strong signal" that voters should not support the antigay initiatives right-wing religious groups are trying to place on the ballot next year.

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