On September 6 the California legislature became the first in the country to allow same-sex marriages, stirring loud cheers from supporters standing by in the Assembly gallery.
Massachusetts offers marriage licenses to gay couples while Vermont grants civil unions, but both rulings in those states were decided in court rather than by a legislative body.
The California assembly bill, overcoming two previous defeats, was sent to the governor’s desk, where he will most likely veto the bill, ending the celebration of supporters.
According to a spokeswoman for Governor Schwarzenegger, the governor supports Proposition 22, a measure approved by California voters in March 2000, defining marriage as that between a man and a woman. The spokeswoman stated that the governor believes the courts are the appropriate place for deciding on the state’s ban on same-sex marriages
Many opponents of the bill admit that Schwarzenegger’s decision to veto the bill likely stems from a desire to recover from his declining approval ratings. According to one poll, 56 percent of California voters would not support the governor if he sought re-election.
“The people who are his strongest supporters are among the least likely to support this bill,” said Republican media consultant, Wayne Johnson, according to Yahoo News.
Proponents of the bill, however, feel that the governor has been disloyal to his bipartisan ideals that helped him get elected. According to a report by MSNBC, Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said, “Schwarzenegger got elected with record numbers of lesbian and gay voters who had not previously voted Republican, and he sold us out.”
The bill’s author, Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco democrat and one of six openly gay California legislative members, is determined to see the bill passed despite the original bill being rejected in June. Although Leno’s tenacity may have paid off temporarily, with a 41-35 vote in favor of the bill, some say Leno’s resolve could backfire on him.
According to MSNBC, Karen England of the Capitol Resource Institute, a group that supports the governor’s decision said, “I think Assembly member Leno wanted to rally everyone on his side and he’s done exactly the opposite.”
Governor Schwarzenegger has until October 9 to veto the bill and will likely do so despite his beliefs that gay couples should not be discriminated against for their relationships and the fact that California already gives same-sex couples many of the rights that married couples share if they register with the state as domestic partners.