California lawmakers, joining a lower court in overruling the state's citizens, became the first in the country to approve a bill allowing same-sex marriages.
Five years ago Californians overwhelmingly voted to limit marriage to a man and woman by approving Proposition 22. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy as saying:
"What about Prop. 22? What about the 62 percent of Californians who supported it? What about their will?" asked Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia (Los Angeles County). "If this legislation doesn't subvert the will of the people, I don't know what does."
According to the Associated Press, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno had sponsored an earlier bill that fell four votes short of passing the Assembly in June. He kept the issue alive by adding the language of the defeated measure to another bill that already had passed the Assembly and was awaiting action in the Senate. The Senate approved that bill and sent it back to the Assembly for another vote. Four Democrats who didn't vote the last time tipped the scales.
No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Forty-one of the Assembly's 47 Democrats voted yes; four Democrats voted "no," and two abstained.
If signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, California will join Massachusetts as the only other state to recognize gay marriages. Massachusetts does so under an order from its state Supreme Court. Connecticut and Vermont recognize civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.
Schwarzenegger has 30 days to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action, the bill would also become law.
Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Margita Thompson, would not tell the Mercury News, whether the governor would sign the bill. But she told the Times:
The people spoke when they passed Proposition 22. The issue subsequently went to the courts. The governor believes the courts are the correct venue for this decision to be made. He will uphold whatever decision the court renders.
This might seem like one of those no win situations for Governor Schwarzenegger. Public opinion on gay marriage is evenly split, 46% to 46%, in California based on a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. However, that poll also found voters divided along party lines. 56 percent of Independents and Democrats favor same-sex marriages, compared to just 24 percent of Republicans.