Saturday, September 10, 2005

SSM – Long Views

Newspaper columnists and editorial boards have gotten philosophical in light of the pending veto of the nation's first legislated same-sex marriage law. We find unusually strong opinions from West Coast editors.

The San Francisco Chronicle has For lack of one leader, including:
The question should not be whether the public supports a marriage law that enshrines discrimination against gays and lesbians in myriad ways -- including the deprivation of about 1,000 federal rights and responsibilities. The question is whether the state's leaders have the fortitude to risk their standing for the cause of equality -- by challenging discrimination with all available political and legal tools.

Sixty-two legislators did.

History is on the side of leaders with the courage to resist the political calculation of the moment to challenge the status quo on behalf of civil rights.

Schwarzenegger just failed the test.
The New York Times is unambiguous in ridiculing the shrinking hunk in Where's the Governator Now?:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a profile in timidity this week when he vowed to veto a pioneering bill authorizing gay marriage in California...Mr. Schwarzenegger's own views of gay marriage are hidden beneath vague, elusive, sometimes contradictory comments that add up to ducking the issue. The former Mr. Universe who has derided political opponents as "girlie men" is afraid to say what he really thinks. He falls back on a rationale that would leave the issue to the courts or another vote of the people. Anything to get him off the hook.
The LA Times has Marriage for all, with:
In reality, no one branch of government has "final say" on an issue. Legal decisions can be overruled (or rendered meaningless, in some cases, by a new law). Laws can be vetoed or declared unconstitutional. Vetoes can be overridden. Even the majority, as the founders recognized, must be prevented from tyrannizing the minority; just because most voters agree on something doesn't mean it's right.

Which brings us back to the role of judges in resolving this debate. Separate from the Legislature's move this week, California courts are considering challenges under the equal protection clause of the state constitution to any ban on same-sex marriage. So Schwarzenegger will get his forum, though probably not the outcome he wants. The outcome here is inevitable; it's only a question of timing.
The editors at the Sacrament Bee published One or the other, reading in part:
The courts have yet to decide whether Proposition 22 is a legal restriction of marriage or an illegal form of discrimination. A lower court has ruled it unconstitutional, but neither the appellate court nor the state Supreme Court has yet had its say. Only if and when the courts remove this definition of marriage from the books can legislators wordsmith the legal wedding participants.

Meanwhile, there is an obvious compromise that respects and accommodates a wide variety of views and partnerships. Why not get government out of the business of defining marriage and into the business of recognizing civil unions and establishing the rights and responsibilities of such unions? Why not leave the sacrament of marriage to every church and cultural institution to define to their liking and values? The gay marriage debate, however, has never been about compromise. In this cultural war, the soldiers march into battle apparently oblivious to where the actual culture is heading and how fast it is heading there.

But the best is the shortest, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Same-sex marriage: Veto the future (in its entirety):
California is close to legalizing same-sex marriage, with lawmakers there this week passing a bill to make it so. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would veto the bill, because ... . Oh yes, he'll veto the bill because he cares so much about the feelings of voters who, five years ago, approved an initiative preventing California from recognizing same-sex marriages.

So, Der Governator has respect for the process and the will of the people, eh? How the heck did he think this bill came to be in the first place? Lawmakers -- elected ones -- passed it. But we suppose some processes are less convenient to respect than others, making this is a distasteful, transparent case of political pandering. California already gives gay couples registered as domestic partners many of the rights it affords (straight) married couples, and this ridiculous veto only makes a significant portion of his constituency feel disrespected and sold out.

The notion of marriage as a sacred thing and the privilege of straight couples is outdated and laughable. How could two men getting married harm the institution more than Britney Spears, whose first marriage was a skanky 55-hour Las Vegas affair?

Marriage can't be defined like that. Its inviolability -- like any other bond -- is something that can be upheld and understood only in the hearts and minds of the two people who enter into it.

You can't enforce that type of thing (as Britney so poetically proved), and you sure as heck can't veto it. So give it up, Gov. Schwarzenegger -- you're fighting a losing battle.

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