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Gavin Newsom in DC for SCOTUS marriage cases

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom will attend Tuesday’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases challenging state laws that prohibit same-sex partners from exercising the same rights as opposite-sex partners.

Newsom’s February 2004 decision to direct San Francisco’s City Hall to issue same-sex marriage licenses catapulted him onto the national stage, even if some marriage-rights activists believe it was premature and galvanized a backlash. He announced in February that he’ll run for governor in 2018.

“Rulings upon rulings have rendered discrimination against same-sex partners unjustly unconstitutional, and I hope a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices will rule in favor of equality once again,” Newsom said in a news release Monday. “But I caution against complacency in this battle against bigotry, especially where states are turning to so-called religious exemptions. Even in California, a vanguard for tolerance, there are those who continue their hateful crusade against love.”

While in Washington this week, Newsom is scheduled to address the California State Society, and to meet with members of California’s congressional delegation to discuss criminal justice reforms, economic development, and higher education. And, apparently, to find a decent lunch.

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Kashkari and Whitman sign same-sex marriage brief

Former California gubernatorial candidates Neel Kashkari and Meg Whitman are among more than 300 Republicans and conservatives who signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Project Right Side and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman formally filed the amicus brief Thursday evening involving four cases to be heard on April 28 concerning government recognition of the freedom to marry.

The signers “want to convey to the court that they support traditional conservative values, including the belief in the importance of stable families, as well as the commitment to limited government and the protection of individual freedom,” a news release said. “Furthermore they believe that those conservative values are consistent with affording civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held marriage to be a fundamental right.”

Mehlman said the brief “adds an important and different voice in the struggle for marriage equality both before the Court and also to millions of Americans at a ‘teaching moment.’ It is another reflection of the growing national support for freedom and liberty for gay and lesbian Americans – support that clearly crosses partisan and ideological lines.”

In 2013, Mehlman submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry – the case that resulted in California’s Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage being overturned – with 131 Republican signers.

Other signers of this new brief include former California House members Mary Bono and Michael Huffington; the consultants who have run California’s past three Republican gubernatorial campaigns – Steve Schmidt, Mike Murphy, and Aaron McLear; Josh Ginsberg, former political director for Arnold Schwarzenegger; Tucker Bounds, former communications director for Whitman; and Andrea Saul, former communications director for 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina.

2

Dianne Feinstein reintroduces bill to repeal DOMA

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday reintroduced her bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and to ensure all those same-sex couples married under their states’ laws are treated equally under federal law.

This Respect for Marriage Act is almost certainly DOA in this new GOP-controlled Congress, but Feinstein, D-Calif., toils on.

“Congress must repeal DOMA and ensure that all married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, and that’s what this bill will do,” she said in a news release. “Only when this bill is passed will we be able to guarantee the federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage for all loving couples. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill.”

Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., introduced the companion bill in the House. “The Supreme Court has ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, but Congress still must repeal the law in its entirety,” Nadler said.

The Justice Department issued a memo last June finding that without new law, married same-sex couples will still be denied certain Social Security, veteran and other benefits.

The Senate bill’s 42 original cosponsors include Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. The House bill’s 79 original cosponsors include Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin.

3

Brown signs same-sex marriage bill into law

With a stroke of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pen Monday morning, California did away with its last statutory barriers to same-sex marriage.

Brown signed SB 1306 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which replaces references to “husband and wife” with gender-neutral language, bringing state statutes into line with the state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings recognizing marriage rights for same-sex couples. The bill officially takes effect Jan. 1.

“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender,” Leno said in a news release.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 let stand California’s ruling that Proposition 8 of 2008 – which wrote a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution – was unconstitutional. By repealing Proposition 8, that ruling essentially restored the California Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that had cleared the way for same-sex marriages; weddings resumed almost immediately.

Leno’s bill was cosponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris, Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Although there is no question that same-sex couples can marry in California, the discriminatory language that remains on the statutory books creates confusion about the rights of same-sex couples,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in Leno’s news release. “This law makes it clear to everyone that same-sex couples can marry and that all spouses have the exact same rights and responsibilities under the law, regardless of gender.”

1

Justice Dept. urges passing DiFi’s marriage bill

A Justice Department memo issued Friday on implementing same-sex marriage rights under last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision calls for passing a California senator’s bill to fully repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The report says the only way to fully implement the decision and ensure same-sex, legally-married couples are treated equally under federal law is by passing bills such as S. 1236, the Respect for Marriage Act, offered one year ago by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein introduced the bill on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, finding a key part of DOMA unconstitutional.

“I welcome the Justice Department’s call for passage of our legislation to finally repeal DOMA once and for all and ensure that legally-married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, regardless of where they live,” Feinstein said in a statement issued Friday. “The Justice Department today made clear what we have known all along: the only way key federal agencies like the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs can fully implement the Windsor decision is by enacting the DOMA repeal legislation I introduced with Congressman Nadler.”

“I commend the administration for the painstaking work it has done to go through more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA and implement as much of the decision as possible. But the only way we will achieve full equality under federal law for legally-married, same-sex couples is to enact our bill.”

Feinstein’s bill has 44 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans. H.R. 2523, the House version of the bill offered by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has 174 co-sponsors including two Republicans: Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

2

Former Rep. Ernie Konnyu might take on Newsom

Republican former South Bay Congressman Ernie Konnyu said Friday he’s considering a run against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom because Newsom is “fundamentally untrustworthy.”

Newsom as San Francisco’s mayor violated state law by authorizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples in 2004, Konnyu said, and violated his own Catholic beliefs both by having an affair with his campaign manager’s wife in 2007 and by remarrying in 2008 without having his first marriage annulled.

Ernie Konnyu“The analysis I did – just Internet research – on the lieutenant governor found him, in my opinion, vulnerable despite the Democratic nature of California,” Konnyu, 76, of San Jose, said Friday afternoon. (He might want to step up that research a bit, given that he misspelled Newsom’s name – putting an “e” at the end – in emails he sent Wednesday and Friday.)

That analysis has led him to reconsider his earlier decision not to run. “I’ve been discussing this with some of my friends for several months but it never got past the discussion stage – I had actually said this was a crazy idea, and I had dropped it.”

With the candidacy filing deadline coming up March 7, “I have to make up my mind probably in a week, two weeks at the most.”

No well-known Republican challengers have materialized to take on Newsom as he seeks a second four-year term as lieutenant governor. Newsom raised about $511,000 in campaign contributions from July through December, finishing the year with about $1.7 million in ready cash, according to a campaign finance report filed last week.

Konnyu represented California’s 12th Congressional District from 1987 to 1989; he spent much of that term embroiled in controversy over accusations of sexual harassment, and was defeated in his bid for a second term by a more moderate Republican, Tom Campbell. Earlier, Konnyu represented western and southern Santa Clara County in the Assembly from 1980 to 1986.

Both in the Legislature and Congress, he worked well with Republicans and Democrats alike, he said Friday.

Asked whether he has the money and other support to mount a statewide campaign, he replied, “that’s the reason I didn’t say I’m running yet – that’s the big fly in the ointment.”

The state’s GOP leaders “don’t have the money to support this campaign. They’re targeting re-capturing more than a third of the Assembly and the state Senate … so most of the money they have is going to be spent there, and not on statewide offices.”

He said he’s hoping to “capture enough Lincoln Club types… and see if I can finance the race that way;” he said he also has talked with Santa Clara County Republican Party Chairman Charles Munger Jr.

Konnyu said as lieutenant governor he would push for California to emulate some of the tax breaks for businesses that have been proposed or enacted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “If I bring that as lieutenant governor to the Legislature, we have something positive to talk about because it’s a Democratic law created in New York.”

Asked why he described Newsom as “fundamentally untrustworthy” in his email, Konnyu replied “this guy promised as mayor to uphold the laws of the state of California, and the U.S. Constitution and of course the California Constitution. Also, he’s a self-declared practicing Catholic, and he also promised to the church and to the Catholic community that he would abide by the laws of the Catholic church.”

“He doesn’t give a damn when he feels differently,” Konnyu said, citing both Newsom’s support of same-sex marriage rights in violation of what then was state law as well as his personal history.

Newsom probably isn’t too fearful of a potential Konnyu candidacy.

“Democracy is a wonderful thing, and as candidates from Gary Coleman to Arnold Schwarzenegger have shown, anyone can run for office in California,” Dan Newman, Newsom’s campaign consultant, said Friday.