Advertisement
Share

Schwarzenegger Seeks Halt to Gay Marriages

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the state attorney general Friday to take immediate action to stop San Francisco’s parade of same-sex marriages, hours after a second San Francisco Superior Court judge refused to order a halt to the unions.

In a strongly worded letter to Bill Lockyer, the governor said that because San Francisco’s actions “are directly contrary to state law and present an imminent risk to civil order, I hereby direct you to take immediate steps to obtain a definitive judicial resolution of this controversy.”

In a speech Friday night at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame, Schwarzenegger departed from his prepared text to comment on the issue.

“We are seeing in San Francisco that the courts have dropped the ball,” he said. “It’s time for the city of San Francisco to start respecting state law.”

The crowd of 700 Republican activists gave him a standing ovation.

Advertisement

A spokeswoman for Lockyer said late Friday that her office had been in close contact with the governor’s staff and planned to seek a judgment in the court case soon declaring San Francisco’s actions in violation of state law. But she stressed that the city’s experiment posed no risk to public safety and noted that the governor had no authority over the independently elected Lockyer.

“The governor cannot direct the attorney general,” said Hallye Jordan. “He can direct the Highway Patrol. He can direct ‘Terminator 4.’ But he can’t tell the attorney general what to do. However, we are his lawyer, and we are moving as expeditiously -- with deliberation -- as possible.”

Lockyer was reluctantly pulled into the San Francisco controversy Thursday, when city officials sued the state alleging that state law defining marriage as between “a man and a woman” violated the California Constitution by discriminating against gays and lesbians. That action became part of the broader legal challenge to the city now wending through the courts.

By day’s end Friday, more than 6,300 people had been married in same-sex civil ceremonies performed at San Francisco City Hall over the last week. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who cleared the way for the marriages, performed one himself Friday for a state official.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Ronald Evans Quidachay allows the city to continue the marriages until the case is heard on its merits next month.

The city says it is upholding the state Constitution’s equal protection clause, which forbids discrimination. Legal challengers of the government-sanctioned marriages argue that Newsom and his county clerk are in blatant violation of state law and should be restrained.

Friday’s court hearing came just three days after Superior Court Judge James L. Warren issued a nearly identical ruling. In both hearings -- which stemmed from lawsuits by opponents of same-sex marriage -- the judges ruled that challengers had not shown that the marriages were causing immediate and irreparable harm.

“Both judges recognize that there’s no one who’s hurt by allowing gay people to be married,” Chief Deputy City Atty. Therese Stewart said after Friday’s hearing. “The anti-gay groups say we’ve violated the rule of law. Obviously, their law books don’t include the state Constitution.”

Other proponents were equally delighted.

“Four times in seven days, courts have said San Francisco can keep marrying same-sex couples,” said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda Legal at its Western regional office in Los Angeles. “While this fight is far from over, this case will ultimately resolve whether the California Constitution requires that same-sex couples be given the equal right to marry.”

Warren had previously ruled on a challenge brought by the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Quidachay ruled Friday in a case brought by the Campaign for California Families and its executive director, Randy Thomasson. The judge agreed to consolidate both cases, although it remained unclear which judge would ultimately hear the matter.

Thomasson’s group said Friday that it would use its one challenge allowed under the law to seek Warren’s removal from the case.

Attorney Mathew Staver of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel said he remained confident that “we are moving forward to stop this situation.”

“Obviously, we would have wanted to have the stay immediately issued so the circus-like atmosphere we’re seeing in San Francisco would come to an end and we could litigate this in a calm fashion,” he said. “We will be back here in March, at which point the city must show why they should be allowed to continue.”

A hearing in the case before Warren had been set for March 29, but if the matter is placed before Quidachay, the hearing could occur in mid-March.

The complaint filed by the city against the state will also be considered, along with the other two cases, attorneys said Friday.

Lockyer has vowed to uphold the law.

Jordan, his spokeswoman, said the attorney general “has had all along every intention to move as expeditiously as possible. We believe the people of California, as well as the couples who have obtained these marriage licenses, deserve a speedy resolution to the question of whether they are valid. We don’t believe this is going to require a drawn-out legal trial, because we think the law is pretty clear: Only a marriage between a man and a woman is recognized as valid.”

However, Jordan said Lockyer views the San Francisco actions -- and those of religious protesters who have opposed the marriages in recent days -- as orderly.

“If there was any hint of violence, we would step in,” she said. “Right now, this is not a public emergency. We urge everyone to tone down the rhetoric, take a deep breath and let the courts resolve this legal question.”

Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger’s communications director, said the governor’s senior staff had been calling Mayor Newsom’s office all day “but our calls have not been returned.”

“San Francisco should be done flouting the law,” Stutzman said. Otherwise, “it leads to anarchy.”

Peter Ragone, the mayor’s spokesman, said the office had received no calls Friday from the governor’s office: “None, zero, zilch.”

In response to Schwarzenegger’s letter, Ragone said, “I guess four court hearings aren’t enough. Everyone knows that the mayor is upholding the California Constitution by refusing to discriminate against anyone.”

Meanwhile, a carnival-like atmosphere continued at San Francisco’s ornate City Hall, where 3,175 couples had been married by Friday afternoon. Inside the cavernous rotunda, a man played violin for the newlyweds. Outside, saxophones blared.

Evangelical Christians arrived in San Francisco from out of state, toting signs warning that “The Wicked Shall Be Turned Into Hell.”

A recreational vehicle decorated with anti-gay slogans and the Ten Commandments crawled in circles around the block for hours.

As the day wore on, counter-protesters showed up too, one waving a sign that said: “Stop Using Jesus to Promote Hatred.”

In the morning, Newsom presided over the marriage of State Board of Equalization Chairwoman Carole Migden -- who as an assemblywoman wrote many domestic-partner laws -- and her partner of 19 years, Cris Arguedas.

Word of the unions continued to spread, with mixed results. Newsom acknowledged that about a third of his calls and e-mails were negative, and even leading Democrats have distanced themselves from his move. Still, others around the country weighed in on the other side.

A Web-based movement in Minnesota urged people to send flowers to San Francisco City Hall to be delivered randomly to newlyweds.

Meantime, a county clerk in New Mexico’s Sandoval County issued marriage licenses Friday to about two dozen gay couples, some of whom then exchanged vows outside the courthouse, as more same-sex couples lined up for a chance to tie the knot.

But New Mexico’s attorney general issued an opinion later saying the licenses were invalid under state law, and the clerk stopped issuing them.

As Newsom’s decision to grant the gender-neutral licenses rippled across the U.S. and around the world this week, public opinion polls released Friday suggested a slight increase in support for same-sex marriage over 2000, when California voters approved the anti-gay marriage Proposition 22.

A poll released Friday by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 44% of adults in the state supported same-sex marriage -- up 6 percentage points from 2000. Fifty-one percent of voters were against it, and 6% remained undecided, the poll showed.

A separate San Francisco survey of 400 registered voters by pollster David Binder showed that 25% of those queried opposed issuing same-sex licenses. Meanwhile, 66% supported Newsom’s actions, including 50% who “strongly support” them.

San Francisco officials were buoyed by the week’s events.

“This isn’t just about San Francisco,” said Stewart, the chief deputy city attorney. “This is about the whole country. There are gay men and lesbians all over the U.S. who haven’t been allowed to have their relationships treated with the same dignity and respect as heterosexual couples. I think the minds of the people ... are changing.”

But foes warned of a fierce backlash.

“This will awaken the sleeping giant of the majority of Americans who believe in marriage between one man and one woman but have heretofore remained silent in the culture wars,” Staver said.

*

Times staff writer Joe Mathews contributed to this report.


Advertisement