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Marriage, state budget & San Jose on ‘TWINC’

I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” last night to discuss this week’s developments in the same-sex marriage wars. With me were KQED’s John Myers to discuss the state budget fiasco, and the Wall Street Journal’s Bobby White to discuss how San Jose is grappling with its monumental budget deficit.

Posted on Saturday, June 18th, 2011
Under: same-sex marriage, state budget, TWINC | No Comments »

Tim Pawlenty glitter-bombed by activists in SF

Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was sprinkled with glitter and confetti by a pair of gay-rights activists today in San Francisco.

Pawlenty was attending the American’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2011 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center when he was approached by activists Nancy Mancias, 41, and Chelsea Byers, 24, both of San Rafael, from the women’s peace group CODEPINK. “Where’s your courage to stand up for gay and reproductive rights? Welcome to San Francisco, home of gay hero Harvey Milk!” they said as they were being led away.

In a news release issued after the incident, the activists said they were inspired by another glitter attack mounted against Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich last month in Minneapolis.

“We are on the cusp of a important civil rights movement and Pawlenty wants to end it. He has expressed his desire to reinstate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’”, Mancias said in the release. “He’s vetoed equal rights legislation in his home state of Minnesota.”

UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: All glitter aside, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse issued a statement noting Pawlenty was in San Francisco to speak to health insurance executives, “and he’s getting paid to do it.”

Woodhouse noted Pawlenty recently endorsed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Republican budget plan that would convert Medicare into a voucher system for future generations.

“Perhaps being bought and paid for by the health insurance executives is something Tim Pawlenty is fine being known for, but it won’t help future seniors who will be forced to pay more for less in terms of health care if Republicans get their way and end Medicare,” Woodhouse said. “Perhaps pocketing thousands of dollars in cash to give a speech outlining his plan to repeal health reform is a plus for Tim Pawlenty, but it won’t help seniors afford their prescription drugs or preventive care, it won’t help young people access health insurance and it won’t help people being denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.”

Pawlenty campaign spokesman Alex Conant quickly returned fire.

“This lame attack is just more evidence that President Obama has a campaign plan, not an economic plan,” Conant said via e-mail. “Given the inordinate amount of attention the DNC spends on Governor Pawlenty, it’s clear they recognize that Pawlenty’s record of results is a stark contrast to Obama’s empty rhetoric. We’re not going to be lectured by Democrats who have failed to address out-of-control health care costs, deficits and unemployment.”

Conant declined to comment on the glitter-bombing.

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

Poll numbers shift, ads launched on marriage

Days after a recent poll showed Californians becoming more accepting of same-sex marriage, the national advocacy group Freedom to Marry is rolling out a “Why Marriage Matters” national ad campaign.

The organization says the $10 million, three-year effort will be the largest-ever national public education campaign on this issue, launching Monday – Valentine’s Day – with a national cable buy on CNN. Here’s the first ad:

In partnership with local and state groups, the “Why Marriage Matters” campaign will include a variety of TV, radio, and online ads, plus a website of its own.

“Across the country the thinking of many Americans, from the president to the people next door, continues to — as President Obama put it — ‘evolve’ toward support for same-sex couples joining in the freedom to marry. Freedom to Marry’s team has crunched over a decade’s worth of polling data and field experience to crack the code on moving the reachable but not yet reached,” Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said in a news release. “By engaging friends, families, and neighbors in personal conversations about why marriage matters, each of us can help fair-minded people wrestling with a lack of information and uncertainty, and change hearts and minds.”

Freedom to Marry says its data showed that people who have had conversations with their gay and lesbian friends about why marriage matters to them are more likely to support the freedom to marry.

“As Americans see their gay and lesbian friends, families, and coworkers in loving and committed relationships, they realize there is no good reason to withhold the protections and support that only come with marriage,” said Thalia Zepatos, the group’s public engagement director. “It is as simple as the Golden Rule.”

Here in California, 52.2 percent of voters in November 2008 approved Proposition 8, which amended the state’s constitution to say that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” A federal judge has deemed the measure unconstitutional, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is now considering the case.

But a recent poll indicates Californians’ minds might be changing on the issue even as the courts weigh it. A Public Policy Polling survey of 892 California voters, conducted from Jan. 28 to 30 with a 3.3 percent margin of error, found that when asked, “Do you think same sex marriage should be legal or illegal?,” 51 percent said legal, 40 percent said illegal and 10 percent said they weren’t sure. When PPP had last asked the question in September 2010, a 46 percent plurality was in support, but an almost equal 44 percent was opposed.

The poll showed Democrats remained stable, with two-thirds in support and a quarter opposed both then and now. But Republican voters moved from 76-15 opposed in the earlier poll to 64-29 in this new one; independent voters went from 47-41 to 51-35.

It’s still a generational divide, to some extent: 47 percent of senior citizens oppose same-sex marriage, while only 42 percent support it. Take them out of the poll, and support for legalization grows to 51 percent in favor, 38 percent against – indicating once again that legal acceptance of same-sex marriage may only be a matter of time.

Posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Under: same-sex marriage | 1 Comment »

Maldonado takes conservative heat on Prop. 8

A conservative group is calling Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, the Republican nominee to keep the job come November, “incompetent and dangerous” given his refusal to mount a legal defense of Proposition 8’s same-sex marriage ban while the governor is gone.

The Capitol Resource Institute, a Sacramento-based conservative advocacy group, issued a news release last Friday saying conservative leaders led by former Republican attorney general candidate John Eastman had asked to meet with Maldonado to discuss the issue.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown have declined to defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the November 2008 measure that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A federal judge has deemed the measure unconstitutional, and arguments have ensued about whether Prop. 8’s proponents – who were allowed to intervene in the trial to defend the measure – now have standing to appeal the judge’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“But Abel Maldonado is a supporter of Proposition 8 and hopefully more willing to honor the obligations of his office than the current Attorney General has been” Eastman said in Friday’s release. “Importantly, while the Governor is traveling outside of the State, all of the rights and responsibilities of the office of Governor rest with Mr. Maldonado.”

The CRI posted Maldonado’s office and campaign numbers on its website so supporters could call and urge him to file an appeal defending Prop. 8. Monday was the deadline for doing so, and the deadline came and went without any state action.

Today, the CRI issued a release saying Maldonado was challenged today on Eric Hogue’s KTKZ radio show as to his refusal to act on Proposition 8; Maldonado apparently said he’d been unable to deal with the appeal issue due to being consumed with the San Bruno disaster. Later in the interview, he indicated his inaction may have been more intentional, explaining he has a partnership with the Governor.

“We certainly appreciate the attention that Mr. Maldonado paid to San Bruno, but we will not allow him to exploit that disaster as an excuse for ignoring the necessary filing of this appeal,” CRI executive director Karen England said in the release. “The requests for the Lieutenant Governor to sign this appeal began prior to the San Bruno incident and were repeated with intensity for several days after the explosion.”

Eastman had prepared the necessary paperwork for Maldonado to file the appeal; all Maldonado had to do was pull the trigger, the release said. Said England:

Karen England“Let me be candid. Maldonado is incompetent and disingenuous if he says he could not find a few minutes to approve this filing in his first five days as acting governor. For several days his staff indicated they would call back with an answer and the Lieutenant Governor complained that the pressure from the public was so intense on Monday that they could not use their phone system. He could have freed those phones up immediately by giving the go ahead.”

“The Lieutenant governor position is the warm-up position for our next governor. Four or eight years from now conservatives will be looking for a candidate for governor. I know we do not want Maldonado on that list. For now, we believe that Maldonado should refrain from saying he is a supporter of Proposition 8. If he could not be bothered to assure that the initiative received a proper hearing in the courts, then he should not exploit the issue by claiming he backed the measure.”

Legally speaking, woe is the lieutenant governor who litigates on his own and then leaves the governor and attorney general to file follow-up paperwork. He’d be burning a lot of bridges, including the one that got him into office, for a ploy that wouldn’t gey far at all.

Politically speaking, it would’ve been electoral suicide for Maldonado to act on his own – or the CRI’s – initiative on Prop. 8 while Schwarzenegger was overseas. Maldonado is doing all he can right now to appear moderate in order to attract decline-to-state and crossover Democratic voters in his general-election showdown with Democratic nominee San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Appeasing the GOP’s most conservative edges won’t do him a lot of good come November. If Eastman’s ideology, including his same-sex marriage stance, was so popular with his own party, why’d he get creamed by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley in the GOP primary for Attorney General?

Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Abel Maldonado, Lt. Governor, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

Marriage bill: religious freedom or ‘Trojan horse?’

My article in yesterday’s editions reported upon a Presbyterian minister who’s been put on trial this week by her church for having solemnized same-sex marriages during the five months in 2008 when it was legal in California to do so, but still forbidden by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution.

Meanwhile, a pending bill would ensure that clergy members whose faiths oppose same-sex marriage are never forced into solemnizing such relationships, no matter what state law says about civil marriage. But SB 906 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, faces some opposition from some sections of the religious community.

William May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good, last month called the bill “a Trojan horse sponsored by the opponents of Prop 8. It is another slap at the 7 million voters who passed it.”

“The sponsor, Equality California, is trying to manufacture on their own a ‘civil’ class of marriage that is independent of marriage as a reality of nature,” he wrote. “It is clear this bill will be used to fool the voters into thinking there is a difference between religious and civil marriage and that same-sex ‘marriage’ will have no impact on churches and people of faith.”

The California Family Council opposes SB 906 for the same reason, as does Concerned Women for America of California.

I understand what they’re saying about Proposition 8’s ban on marriage being the will of the electorate, but there is an effective difference between religious marriage and civil marriage: If you don’t get a civil marriage certificate, your marriage isn’t recognized in California, and you don’t need a clergy member to sign that certificate. Read a deconstruction of May’s arguments here.

Said Leno, back in May: “This bill simply affirms that California is a diverse state and that we can all co-exist and make space for each others’ beliefs without compromising the beliefs of any religious group or individual. With the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, churches and clergy members who fear their religious views are threatened by marriage equality will have clear and solid protections under state law. In addition, churches that welcome same-sex couples will continue to fully recognize those families within their faith.”

The Assembly approved SB 906 last Thursday on a 51-26 vote; Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, joined with Democrats to support it. It now goes back to the state Senate – which approved it 23-11 in May – briefly for concurrence with a technical change, and then it’s headed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage | 6 Comments »

Appeals court issues stay of Prop. 8 ruling

There will be no same-sex marriages in California this week. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Proposition 8 proponents’ request that the same-sex marriage ban remain in place pending appeal of a federal judge’s opinion finding it unconstitutional.

But the appellate court also has ordered that the case be expedited: A previous briefing schedule that would’ve had papers being filed through December has now been vacated. Instead, the opening brief is now due Sept. 17; the answering brief is due Oct. 18; and the reply brief is due Nov. 1, with oral arguments set for the week of Dec. 6.

And the court has asked the proponents – who were actually interveners in the original suit filed against the state – to include in their opening brief why their appeal shouldn’t be dismissed for lack of standing.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: The three 9th Circuit appellate judges who ordered the stay are Edward Leavy, Michael Hawkins and Sidney Thomas – for those who keep count, that’s one Reagan nominee and two Clinton nominees. (Though if you want to judge books by their covers, don’t forget that Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, was first nominated by Reagan and then re-nominated by George H.W. Bush.)

From ProtectMarriage.com General Counsel Andy Pugno:

“California voters spoke clearly on Prop 8, and we’re glad to see their votes will remain valid while the legal challenges work their way up through the courts. Invalidating the people’s vote based on just one judge’s opinion would not have been appropriate, and would have shaken the people’s confidence in our elections and the right to vote itself.”

From Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson:

“Today’s 9th Circuit order expediting appeal of Chief Judge Walker’s persuasive decision striking down Prop 8 and maintaining a stay during the appellate review, is a disappointing delay for many Californians who hoped to celebrate the freedom to marry and full inclusion in society as soon as possible. But there are many twists in the road to justice, and we are encouraged by the court’s setting a fast pace for the appeal, revealing that the judges understand how important a quick end to the exclusion from marriage is to gay couples, their loved ones, and all Americans who believe in equality under the law. While the lawyers make the case for the freedom to marry in the courts of law, we have more months in which to make our case in the court of public opinion. The evidence at trial overwhelmingly confirmed that there is no good reason for withholding the freedom to marry from committed couples, and the Governor, the Attorney General, a majority of Californians, and a majority of Americans agree with Judge Walker that the freedom to marry helps families, while hurting no one. Prop 8 should never have been on the ballot and we look forward to seeing its stain removed from the law books, as we push forward on other fronts across the country.”

From Alliance Defense Fund Litigation Staff Counsel Jim Campbell:

“It made no sense to impose a radical change in marriage on the people of California before all appeals on their behalf are heard, so the 9th Circuit’s decision is clearly the right call. Refusing to stay the decision would only have created more legal confusion surrounding any same-sex unions entered while the appeal is pending. This case has just begun. ADF and the rest of the legal team are confident that the right of Americans to protect marriage in their state constitutions will ultimately be upheld.”

Posted on Monday, August 16th, 2010
Under: same-sex marriage | 6 Comments »

Prop. 8, Ron Dellums and Prop. 209 on ‘TWINC’

I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” on Friday night to discuss the big court decision on the constitutionality of Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage; other topics included Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’ decision not to seek re-election, and the California Supreme Court’s ruling on San Francisco’s challenge to Proposition 209’s ban on affirmative action in public institutions.

Posted on Sunday, August 8th, 2010
Under: Ron Dellums, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

Read the briefs on a stay of the Prop. 8 ruling

Today was the deadline for written arguments on whether Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker should stay his Wednesday ruling overturning Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage pending appeal.

The measure’s proponents had argued even before the ruling came down that staying such a decision is “essential to averting the harms that would flow from another purported window of same-sex marriage in California.” They argue they’ll eventually win this case, and to let more people marry in the interim would “inflict harm on the affected couples and place administrative burdens on the state.” Read their brief here.

Attorney General Jerry Brown argued that’s not so, and same-sex marriages should be allowed to begin again immediately. “(W)hile there is still the potential for limited administrative burdens should future marriages of same-sex couples be later declared invalid, these potential burdens are outweighed by this Court’s conclusion, based on the overwhelming evidence, that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the harm to the plaintiffs outweighs any harm to the state defendants.” Read his brief here.

And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a similar argument in a separate brief. Now that a court has deemed the ban unconstitutional, to resume allowance of same-sex marriage immediately “is consistent with California’s long history of treating all people and their relationships with equal dignity and respect,” his attorney wrote. Read his brief here.

UPDATE @ 5:18 P.M.: The plaintiffs’ brief arguing against a stay says Prop. 8’s proponents can’t possibly make a “strong showing” that they’re likely to prevail on appeal, both because their appeal is without merit and because they may not even have standing to file it – remember, the proponents were defendant interveners in this case, while the governor and state were the original defendants. The plaintiffs further argue that the proponents have failed to show they’ll suffer an irreparable injury without a stay, while a stay would mean the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights would continue to be curtailed. And they say the public interest in ensuring recognition and protection of all citizens’ constitutional rights weighs against a stay. Read their brief here.

Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown, same-sex marriage | 7 Comments »

Much more from last night’s David Boies event

David Boies – the famed litigator who helped convince a federal judge to rule this week that California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as enacted by Proposition 8 of 2008 violates the U.S. Constitution – had a lot of interesting things to say at the Commonwealth Club of California last night, far more than we had room for in the paper.

Follow me after the jump for a more complete readout…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2010
Under: same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

The candidates’ positions on the Prop. 8 ruling

So the rhetoric was flying hot and heavy yesterday in the wake of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s invalidation of Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional; statements were coming in at all hours (they still are, actually), and we got most of the salient ones online.

But now that most quarters have been heard from, I thought it might be interesting to juxtapose the statements from the major-party candidates seeking the offices of state attorney general, governor and U.S. Senator. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Republican nominee for attorney general, was last to send his statement yesterday and we never got it online until now, so let’s start with him:

“Barring a law that is unconstitutional on its face, the proper role of an Attorney General is to enforce and defend the will of the People as manifested through the initiative or legislative process. The will of the People should be respected and not overturned easily or lightly. Today’s decision by a federal judge overturning Proposition 8 should be appealed and tested at a higher level of our legal system. The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 by a 6 to 1 vote and declared it to be constitutional. Likewise, if the voters had approved an initiative legalizing same-sex marriage and a federal judge had ruled against it, I would also support an appeal of that decision.”

From San Francisco District Attorney and Democratic Attorney General nominee Kamala Harris:

“Today’s historic decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger was a monumental step forward in the fight for equality.

“From the moment Attorney General Jerry Brown issued his analysis that Prop 8 violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, I have proudly concurred with him. That position has been confirmed by Federal Judge Walker’s opinion today and stands in a proud line of jurisprudence reflected so boldly in 1948 when California’s Supreme Court ruled that a ban on interracial marriage violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a conclusion finally reached in 1967 by the United States Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.

“Attorney General Brown, Judge Walker, and I have all sworn to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States. So, if I am given the privilege to serve as California’s next Attorney General, I will not defend the anti-gay Proposition 8 in Federal court. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my opponent in the California Attorney General’s race, who promises to put the full weight of the state of California behind a defense of this discriminatory amendment.

“I pledge my support as this fight continues to another court and if necessary, the Supreme Court. I will continue to advocate for the defeat of Prop 8, whether we win that battle in the courts or at the ballot box. We may well face a lengthy battle on this issue but, as Dr. King said in 1967, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’”

From Darrel Ng, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman:

“Meg supported Proposition 8 and believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Meg also strongly supports California’s civil union laws. Today’s ruling is the first step in a process that will continue.”

From California Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown:

“In striking down Proposition 8, Judge Walker came to the same conclusion I did when I declined to defend it: Proposition 8 violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, without a sufficient governmental interest.”

From Republican senatorial nominee Carly Fiorina:

“The people of California spoke clearly on this issue at the ballot box in 2008. That decision is being challenged through our court system and while I don’t agree with the judge’s ruling today, this is one in what will be a multi-step legal process.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This historic decision is a step forward in the march toward equal rights and reflects a growing legal consensus that marriage equality is protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman, same-sex marriage, Steve Cooley, U.S. Senate | No Comments »