Today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Equality California-sponsored Assembly Bill 849, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), bringing this bill’s dramatic progress in recent weeks to a halt.
"The Governor has simply delayed – not ended – the inevitability of marriage equality in California," said Equality California Executive Director Geoffrey Kors.
"When called upon to take a position on the civil rights issue of the day, Governor Schwarzenegger decided to block the doorway to equality," Kors continued. "As a result of his veto, hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians and their families will continue to live without equal protection of the law. However, the veto cannot take away the incredible progress that was achieved when the majority of California’s elected Legislature passed this legislation. History has shown time and time again that the path to equality, justice and fairness can be blocked, but ultimately, the door will be opened."
In a pair of historic civil rights votes in early September, the California Legislature earned the distinction of becoming the first legislative body in the nation to vote to pass equal marriage rights legislation for same-sex couples. Governor Schwarzenegger has now earned the distinction of being the first and only Governor in the history of our nation to veto civil rights legislation that would have ended discrimination against lesbian and gay couples in access to government-issued marriage licenses. The legislation was supported by more than 200 religious, labor and civil rights organizations. The California State Conference of the NAACP, United Farm Workers of America (UFW), Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) are among the major civil rights organizations in California that supported the legislation.
This is the second gay rights bill vetoed by the Governor this month. In early September, the Governor vetoed legislation that would have added sexual orientation and gender to the many other categories included in the existing anti-bias voluntary pledge in the California Fair Political Practices Act. This was the first veto of an Equality California-sponsored LGBT-rights bill since he was elected.
"In addition to being extremely disappointed with the Governor’s decision to veto two Equality California-sponsored LGBT civil rights bills this year, we are troubled by the Governor’s continued failure to make an unequivocal statement opposing the various constitutional initiatives proposed for the June 2006 election," said Kors. "These proposed initiatives would not only prohibit the courts or Legislature from ending discrimination in the marriage laws, but would also eliminate existing legal protections currently provided by law to domestic partners, including rights enacted with the Governor’s signature last year."
The Governor did sign four remaining EQCA-sponsored bills. Assembly Bill (AB) 1400, the Civil Rights Act of 2005 (Laird, D-Santa Cruz), builds upon the Unruh Civil Rights Act and related provisions to clarify and reinforce that all businesses that provide services, goods or accommodations to the public cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status; Senate Bill (SB) 973 (Kuehl, D-Santa Monica), allows domestic partners of public employees who retired prior to January 1, 2005, to receive death benefits if the retiree dies before their partner; SB 565 (Migden, D-San Francisco), ensures legally recognized domestic partners are treated the same as spouses under California’s property tax laws; and AB 1586 (Koretz, D-West Hollywood), adds gender and gender identity to existing anti-discrimination provisions in California laws regulating insurance companies and health care service plans.
“While we are certainly grateful he signed our remaining legislation today, denying us marriage equality prevents us from truly enjoying equal rights and protections guaranteed to everyone else," said Kors.
Founded in 1998, Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure the dignity, safety, equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Equality California is one of the largest and fastest-growing statewide LGBT organizations in the country. We can be contacted through our website at www.eqca.org.