California Assembly Democrats have passed a bill that would end discrimination in the state’s marriage laws, allowing same-sex couples to legally wed. AB 849, which was already passed in the Senate – again without a single Republican vote – will now go to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk.
The collective vote by the Legislature is historic. No other legislative body in the United States has ever legalized same-sex marriage. It should make us all proud to live in California, where we actually take seriously the notion that all people should have equal rights under the law.
But the hateful rhetoric coming out of the opposition, along with their promises to attempt to completely strip gays and lesbians of any domestic partnership rights they have now by introducing an initiative next year, shows exactly why everyone needs to be engaged in this fight right now. Yes, California will lead the nation as an example of tolerance and equality, but it will not happen automatically. Here were comments in the Washington Post from Dennis Mountjoy, who some people have actually seen fit to elect to a public office:
“Marriage should be between a man and a woman, end of story. Next issue,” insisted Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia). “It’s not about civil rights or personal rights, it’s about acceptance. They want to be accepted as normal. They are not normal.”
Reports from the floor were that Republican Assemblyman Tim Leslie of Tahoe City was the most Neanderthal in his comments. Once the transcripts become available, we will shine some light on them. But you can get an idea of where he is coming from by reading this op-ed from last month. Warning: read only if you need to get your blood boiling.
The Democrats who did change their vote from when a previous version of the bill came before them should be congratulated. Assemblymembers made it clear that the outpouring of support and pressure from constituents and from other elected leaders played an important role in their eventual decision to support the bill.
There will be a lot of confusion around this event because this is what real leadership looks like, and people frankly just aren’t that used to seeing it these days. The Legislature passed this bill because it was the right thing to do, not because a majority of Californians say they support it in a poll.
Schwarzenegger now has an opportunity to show real leadership, as well. Indications are that he will continue to rely on the recommendations of his backward and narrow-minded party, rather than his own convictions and values. And if he does veto this bill, it will be our jobs as Californians to hold him accountable should he run for re-election next year. It’s important that as his constituents we all weigh in on this one, so stay tuned for opportunities from Speak Out California to take action.