Schwarzenegger Vows To Veto Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Governor says the legislation goes against the will of the people.

The celebration in California lasted only a day. On Wednesday, as expected, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he will veto a bill that would have legalized gay marriage in California because he feels it goes against the will of the people.

The bill, passed by the State Assembly on Tuesday, would have made California the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage through its legislature (see "Same-Sex Marriage Approved In California ... For Now"). Schwarzenegger said he believed the bill conflicted with the intent of voters who approved Proposition 22 five years ago, a ballot measure that barred the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries, according to a report by The Associated Press.

"We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote," Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Margita Thompson, said in a statement. "Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto (the bill)."

According to the language in Proposition 22, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," while the new bill would have more broadly defined marriage as a civil contract between "two persons."

Schwarzenegger has previously said that he believes that voters or the courts should have the last word on same-sex marriage, not the legislature.

It would require a two-thirds vote in both the California State Assembly and State Senate to override the governor's veto, which seems unlikely given the initially slim vote margins of 41-35 and 21-15, respectively. Schwarzenegger has until October 9 to issue the veto, which comes despite his belief that "gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship," according to Thompson's statement.

Gay rights advocates were quick to decry Schwarzenegger, accusing him of abandoning the bipartisan ideals that paved the way for his election in a special 2003 recall, according to the AP.

"Clearly he's pandering to an extreme right wing, which was not how he got elected," said one of the bill's sponsors, Equality California's Geoff Kors. "He got elected with record numbers of lesbian and gay voters who had not previously voted for a republican, and he sold us out."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom — who sanctioned same-sex marriages in his city in 2004 before the state Supreme Court voided them (see "California Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriages Null And Void

") — said Schwarzenegger missed "a golden opportunity to stand on history and do something that was noble and appropriate. ... It disappoints me greatly, and it will disappoint literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans, not to mention millions of people across the country."

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, citizens might get the chance to vote for themselves on gay marriage. The state, which recognized same-sex unions through a court ruling in 2003, could face a proposed 2008 ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, according to the AP. The state attorney general ruled Wednesday that the initiative could be permitted if supporters gathered the required amount of signatures. A separate proposal to ban gay marriage but allow civil unions is facing a vote in the Massachusetts Legislature next week and, if approved, would go on the ballot in 2006 (see "Gay Marriage Issue As Complicated As It Is Controversial")