Schwarzenegger Terminates California Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Governor vetoed bill Thursday; Connecticut becomes second state to offer same-sex civil unions.

As promised, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed California's same-sex marriage bill on Thursday. Explaining his action — which came on a day in which he rejected 51 other bills as well — Schwarzenegger wrote that he believed gay couples were entitled to "full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against," but that he believed the bill would have reversed a 2000 ballot measure that declared that only a marriage between a man and a woman is legal in California.

The same-sex marriage bill — which squeaked by in the State Senate and Assembly earlier this month with no Republican votes — was the first in the country that legalized gay marriage using the power of the legislature without a court order (see "California Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill"). Democratic San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno, the sponsor of the bill, accused the Governor of "hiding behind the fig leaf" of the 2000 ballot measure, Proposition 22, according to the Los Angeles Times. That measure was approved by 61 percent of voters, but recent polls have suggested that Californians are now almost evenly divided on the issue.

Leno said that the veto "puts the governor on the wrong side of history. ... He cannot claim to support fair and equal legal protections for same-sex couples and veto the very bill that would have provided it to them" (see "Schwarzenegger Vows To Veto Same-Sex Marriage Bill ").

Opponents of gay marriage praised the veto, characterizing Leno's bill as an attempt to do an end-around Proposition 22.

"The governor really had no choice, because signing it would itself be an illegal act," said attorney Andrew Pugno, who represented the groups that backed Proposition 22. "The Constitution requires another vote of the people to change an initiative." The leader of gay-rights group Equality California accused the governor of trying to "play both sides" by rejecting same-sex marriage even as he touts the expansion of domestic-partner rights.

The Times reported that the move comes at a time when Schwarzenegger's Republican base has become even more important, as his approval rating slips to 33 percent. The former action star has announced that he will seek re-election next year.

Meanwhile, on Saturday Connecticut will join Vermont as the only states to offer same-sex civil unions. Unfortunately for those planning their ceremonies, the launch comes on a day when only a handful of town clerks' offices plan to be open, according to a report by The Associated Press.

"Saturday is going to be a landmark day in the civil rights movement in Connecticut," said Democratic State Senator Andrew McDonald, one of only a few openly gay legislators in Connecticut's General Assembly. Connecticut's law passed in April, making it the first state to recognize same-sex unions without court intervention. The civil unions will give same-sex couples the same legal protections as married couples, including spousal health-care benefits.

Laws allowing gay couples to marry in Vermont and Massachusetts were passed as a result of legal action. Despite the change, Connecticut will not recognize same-sex marriages because its law specifies that marriage is between a man and a woman only.