Golden State, same-sex marriages

Today, Jean and Prentice discuss the campaign for a marriage amendment to the California Constitution. Later this week, they'll debate public opinion, social-benefit claims, religious freedom and more.

The people have already spokenBy Ron Prentice
Hello Lorri! I look forward to our dialogue this week, as there is sincerity and conviction on both sides of the issue. So why the push for a constitutional amendment [pdf] to limit marriage as only between a man and a woman? Because the homosexual lobby and the California Legislature continue a full-court press to disregard the decision of California's voters. Placing the definition of marriage into the state constitution will stop the persistent attempts to disassemble Proposition 22, disallow the manipulations of the state Assembly and Senate regarding marriage and direct the courts to abide with marriage's traditional definition.

Seven years ago, two diverse cultural perspectives were making their way into California law. In January of 2000, the registry for domestic partnerships was approved by the Legislature, with a response from California's voters coming in March of the same year. Proposition 22 was a people's initiative to legally protect the long-held definition of marriage in California — as only between a man and woman. More than 61% of California's voters approved Proposition 22, but politicians and judges continue to chip away at this statute, ignoring the will of the people of the state.

Since 2000, California legislators have passed nearly 20 additional bills that bolster the legal benefits of domestic partnerships. Now, homosexual couples benefit from all the rights, privileges and responsibilities given to married couples. The intent of Proposition 22 is being disregarded legislatively, but it doesn't stop there.

In 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that California can no longer justify limiting marriage only to heterosexual couples. Kramer's opinion was overruled by the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court is scheduled to render its decision on the constitutionality of Proposition 22 by mid-2008.

While the decision of the people is questioned by the courts, Assemblyman Mark Leno has been the author of a bill during each of the last two sessions to "legalize" same-sex marriage. Leno knows that a people's initiative takes precedence over a decision of the Legislature, but his purpose is to bring marriage before the courts as often as possible until the homosexual lobby is given a favorable decision. Unfortunately, our "representatives" in the Capitol approved same-sex marriage last year; but that was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, and the governor has vowed to veto Leno's attempt this year, known as Assembly Bill 43.

Lorri, I am sure that you and I will get to the discussion of marriage's ultimate purpose and meaning, but for now the question is "why" another amendment, and "what" will the amendment accomplish? Proposition 22 was an amendment to place a statute into the family code. The "Limit on Marriage" initiative, put forward by a large coalition of local, state and national groups would place the language of Proposition 22 into the California Constitution. In doing so, the will of the voters will be protected; the historic, societal benefits of marriage will be sustained; the Legislature will have no power to affect the definition of marriage; and judges will have no option but to regard traditional marriage as a component of the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold.

Ron Prentice is the chief executive officer of the California Family Council, which is dedicated to the protection and promotion of Judeo-Christian principles in California's culture. The CFC has offices in Riverside and Sacramento.

The majority isn't always rightBy Lorri L. Jean
Hello, Ron. Yes, I have no doubt that there is sincerity and conviction on both sides of the issue of whether same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry. But there is a big difference between both sides. Sadly, your side wants to hurt an entire group of people by excluding us from the rights, responsibilities and protections of marriage. Why? Simply because of whom we love.

It's not fair to hurt gay and lesbian people by denying us the freedom to marry. We are law-abiding, hardworking, taxpaying people -- your friends, neighbors, co-workers and even your family. We want the same things other Californians want. We want a decent life in which our loved ones are safe and protected. Your side wants same-sex couples and our families to be without the basic protections that other Americans take for granted. In fact, one of your sister groups is seeking to amend the state Constitution to not only deny us the freedom to marry but to take away all domestic partnership rights and benefits (which, by the way, do not provide all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities that go with marriage). Some groups opposing the freedom to marry even want it to be legal to discriminate against gay people in our jobs.

The truth is, Ron, you and I have a fundamental disagreement about much more than whether gay and lesbian people should be allowed to marry. Apparently, we disagree about one of the principles upon which our nation was founded: whether the tyranny of the majority should be allowed to prevail and oppress the minority. I don't think it should, especially when it comes to basic human rights.

Remember, the pilgrims came to America seeking freedom. They were escaping countries where the majority was hurting them and their families, denying them the freedom to worship as they chose. They understood better than anyone that just because a majority of the people may support something, doesn't make it right. This belief became so central to the foundation of our nation that it was put it into the Bill of Rights. That's why we all grew up knowing that the "tyranny of the majority" was wrong.

The "will of the people" isn't sacred. Just because most voters may support something doesn't make it right. If a majority of voters believed that the best way to protect marriage were to completely outlaw divorce, that wouldn't make it right. If a majority of voters believed that only gay and lesbian people should be allowed to get married, that wouldn't make it right. If a majority of voters believed that interracial couples should not be allowed to get married -- as was the case in 1948 when the California Supreme Court struck down the laws prohibiting interracial couples from marrying -- that didn't make it right.

Back in 1948, that majority did not get to determine the basic freedoms of the minority. Think what it would have been like if the California Constitution had been amended to prohibit interracial couples from marrying. That kind of discrimination does not belong in our Constitution. Constitutions are supposed to be beacons of freedom safe from the shifting winds of politics and public opinion that can be one thing today and another thing tomorrow. What if our U.S. Constitution had been tinkered with every time one group wanted their view to dominate? I say, leave our Constitution alone, and especially don't support putting discrimination into it. That's un-American.

Lorri L. Jean is the chief executive officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, which is dedicated to caring for the health, advocating for the rights and enriching the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

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