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Schwarzenegger Mum Ahead Of Gay Marriage Vote


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Schwarzenegger Mum Ahead Of Gay Marriage Vote

by Mark Worrall 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau

Posted: September 5, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is refusing to tip his hand ahead of Tuesday's landmark vote in the Assembly on legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

The Senate passed the bill on a 21 to 15 vote last Thursday. (story)

The measure failed by four votes in the Assembly earlier this year when a quarter of the Democrats voted with Republicans to reject it and a handful abstained from voting. (story)

This time, Equality California, the state's largest LGBT rights group, believes it has the votes to pass the bill. The organization has been focusing its lobbying effort on the four assemblymembers who abstained.

Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, the bill would require local clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but allow people opposed to gay marriage to refuse to conduct weddings.

If the bill makes it through the Assembly, California would be the first state to pass gay marriage equality legislation. In Massachusetts, the only state where same-sex marriage currently is legal, it was the state Supreme Court that made the decision.

Whether Schwarzenegger will sign it into law is another matter.

Unlike his counterpart in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, who has pushed for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Schwarzenegger has sent mixed signals.

In a January meeting with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle Schwarzenegger suggested that this may not be the best time to push gay marriage, saying that a legislative push to fully recognize marriage rights for gays might backfire.

"Eventually in a few years from now, you can readdress it again and see what the people of California think,'' he told the paper. "You cannot force-feed those kind of things.''

Last year in a Tonight Show appearance Schwarzenegger said gay marriage would be "fine with me" if it were enshrined in state law or ruled legal by the courts. (story)

The issue of same-sex marriage also is slowly heading toward the California Supreme Court. Last month a San San Francisco judge ruled that state laws preventing gay marriage are illegal. (story)

Meanwhile, a conservative group called the "Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative" has begun collecting signatures to have a proposed amendment to the California Constitution banning same-sex marriage placed on the 2006 ballot. (story) If approved by voters it would not only bar gays and lesbians from marrying but also void the state's landmark domestic partner law.

A new poll, released on the weekend, shows that California voters are equally divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. The Public Policy Institute poll shows that 46 percent are in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry and 46 percent are opposed.

The result is a slight increase in the number supporting gay marriage over the last poll on the issue, but has given Equality California reason to believe that if the proposed amendment makes it to voters a majority would reject it.

"This poll reflects the tremendous education Californians have received by knowing our families who live their lives, raise children, and contribute to their communities despite the stigma of discrimination," said Equality California Executive Director Geoffrey Kors in a statement.

"It is heartening to see solid movement in the direction of equality and away from discrimination."

©365Gay.com 2005


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