Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Governor signs DP bills, vetoes marriage bill

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

Assemblyman Mark Leno speaks to the crowd of marriage equality supporters during a rally Monday. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger torpedoed a same-sex marriage bill as expected last week but did sign bills benefiting domestic partners, queer youth, needle exchange programs, LGBT beachgoers, and even gay horse racing fans.

Upholding earlier promises that he would block – for a second time – a gay marriage bill, Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation pushed by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) late Friday, October 12. In his veto message the governor said due to the passage of Proposition 22 in 2000, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, it is not up to legislators to decide the matter but the public or the courts.

The anti-gay initiative only applied to those marriages performed outside the state, and a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled the measure unconstitutional as part of a favorable ruling in San Francisco's gay marriage lawsuit now pending before the state Supreme Court.

"I maintain my position that the appropriate resolution to this issue is to allow the court to rule on Proposition 22. The people of California should then determine what, if any, statutory changes are needed in response to the court's ruling," wrote Schwarzenegger.

Leno fired back in his own statement that marriage equality "will happen despite" the governor's latest roadblock and that his vetoing the bill "once again puts him on the wrong side of one of the major civil rights issues of this generation."

"History will record that he turned his back on thousands of gay and lesbian citizens when we needed him to show leadership and honor our families and relationships," stated Leno.

At a small but spirited rally Monday evening at Harvey Milk Plaza, marriage equality supporters said that they were disappointed but would continue their work to educate Californians. Many of the 50 or so people who attended also criticized the governor.

"Unfortunately, the governator showed an act of political cowardice this year," said Molly McKay, media director of Marriage Equality USA.

"If San Francisco is Oz, then Governor Schwarzenegger is the cowardly lion," quipped Supervisor Tom Ammiano.

Leno said that Schwarzenegger "missed the opportunity of a lifetime" to be a leader and pointed out that his bill affected a different section of the family code than Proposition 22.

Log Cabin Republicans expressed their own disappointment in the governor's decision. The gay GOP group said it would take Schwarzenegger at his word, "that if, and when, the courts of California join the legislature in recognizing the right to civil marriage equality, he will support that decision."

Log Cabin California Director James Vaughn saw in the governor's position that he supports current domestic partnership rights and will continue "to vigorously defend and enforce" them as a signal he will oppose any ballot initiatives that not only ban same-sex marriage but also seek to overturn the state's domestic partnership laws.

"Though we disagree with the governor's veto decision, we thank him for sending a strong signal to the people of California that he will not allow the initiative process to marginalize gay and lesbian families," said Vaughn. "We look forward to working with the governor to defeat any anti-marriage or anti-domestic partnership ballot initiative."

As the Bay Area Reporter reported last week, an effort by one group to place an anti-gay marriage initiative on next year's June ballot appears to have fizzled out. It now appears that the soonest such a ban would go before voters would be next November. In the meantime, the statewide LGBT lobbying group Equality California began airing pro-marriage equality television ads in the state's largest media markets Thursday, October 11.

Other bills signed

Despite his veto of the gay marriage bill, Schwarzenegger signed into law 11 pieces of gay-related legislation this year, among them three bills boosting the rights of registered domestic partners. The Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act (SB559), authored by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), retroactively grants domestic partners exemptions from property tax reassessment after the death of a partner.

The bill reverses discriminatory tax increases for domestic partners whose partner died before a 2006 law went into effect, protecting them against unfair property reassessments. Schwarzenegger also signed SB105, the Joint Income Tax Filing Implementation Bill authored by Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), which simplifies the process for domestic partners filing their 2007 state income tax returns next year by creating a simple worksheet to calculate their joint income from their separate federal returns.

State Senator Carole Migden. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

He also signed AB102 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) that allows couples to take the last name of either partner at registration of their domestic partnership. Dubbed the Name Equality Act, it also makes it easier for a husband to take his wife's last name upon marriage.

"This legislation is about equality, flexibility, and getting with the times," said Ma. "The governor has made a strong statement about the rights of couples who are in a committed relationship and I thank him for his leadership."

Several bills aimed at protecting LGBT youth in schools also received the governor's signature. The Student Civil Rights Act (SB777), authored by Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) protects students from harassment and bullying in public schools by making sure teachers and school administrators fully understand their respo

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
nsibilities to protect youth.

It restricts a teacher from giving instruction, and a school district from sponsoring any activity, which reflects adversely upon students based on their sexual orientation or gender. The bill exempts religiously affiliated schools and does not go into effect until January 1, 2008.

Already, however, the anti-gay group Capitol Resource Family Impact filed a proposed referendum to overturn the law with the attorney general's office Monday. The group has put out an appeal online soliciting money for gathering signatures.

A second bill authored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), known as the Safe Place to Learn Act (AB394), further strengthens LGBT youth protections by mandating state education officials monitor schools to ensure they have adopted and are following anti-discrimination and anti-harassment requirements.

Schwarzenegger also approved AB629 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). The bill enacts the Sexual Health Education Accountability Act, which requires schools' sexual health education programs receiving state funds teach "medically accurate, current, and objective" curriculums. It also bans teaching or promoting religious doctrine and bias against any person on the basis of gender or sexual orientation in sex-ed classes.

Another Migden-authored bill supported by the governor, SB518, the Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act, will protect all young people, including LGBT youth, from abuse and discrimination in the state's justice system. It requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to distribute a youth bill of rights to all young people in custody during their orientation and post the document where youth can see it. It also creates a toll-free hotline youth can call if they feel their rights have been violated.

"California has shown that we truly care about our kids – all of our kids. By signing this bill, California has said that we are serious about protecting our kids in DJJ facilities from harassment and discrimination," said Jody Marksamer, National Center for Lesbian Rights' youth project director.

Migden said she pushed for the bill due to serious personal rights violations that frequently occur in California's detention centers, harming kids both psychologically and physically.

"There are serious personal rights violations occurring in detention facilities all over California, including attacks by other kids and excessive force by staff," stated Migden. "The governor made the correct decision by signing this legislation: we must protect LGBT kids from abuse while incarcerated so that when they come out they're not damaged, but healthy and ready to return to society."

Schwarzenegger signed two AIDS-related pieces of legislation: Migden's sperm-cleaning bill SB443, which makes it possible for HIV-positive men to have children through artificial insemination, and AB682, which changes the process for patient permission to get an HIV/AIDS test. The bill removes the need for informed consent before an HIV test can be administered and now requires a patient to give simple consent in order to be tested.

While the governor vetoed a bill allowing condoms to be distributed to prisoners, he did instruct the Department of Corrections to implement a smaller pilot condom distribution program as an alternative. He did sign AB110 by Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), allowing agencies to use state funds to buy hypodermic needles for clean needle exchange programs.

"Clean needle exchange programs are an essential part of locally-focused efforts to reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases," said Laird, who has tried for years to get the bill signed. "This bill clarifies state support for local programs that save lives and protect our communities."

Laird also saw his AB14, the Civil Rights Act of 2007, become law. The bill increases or clarifies protections for LGBT people in a variety of situations such as jury service, the issuance of credit cards, voter registration programs, delivery of emergency services, awarding of public contracts, food stamp eligibility, and the use of public beaches. It also outlaws the ejection of someone from a horse-racing track due to their sexual orientation or marital status.

It is the fourth such bill authored by Laird and signed by the governor that adds sexual orientation and gender to 51 non-discrimination provisions in various state laws and codes. Once the bill goes into effect on January 1 in 2008, 108 such provisions will have been updated to include protections for LGBT people.

"All Californians deserve the strongest level of protection available in state law – this bill does that for 51 legal codes in state law that are currently deficient," said Laird.

Since becoming governor Schwarzenegger has signed 30 LGBT-related bills, more than any of the past California governors combined, noted Log Cabin. Log Cabin's Vaughn vowed to continue to press Schwarzenegger to enact pro-gay marriage legislation.

"The governor has one of the strongest pro-gay records of any governor in American history. He is a proven friend of our community," said Vaughn. "And while friends don't always agree, we appreciate his ongoing support for basic fairness. We will continue working with him on the final barrier to provide complete equality for LGBT people in California."






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