Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Same-Sex Marriage in California

California is one weird place. Today the Assembly approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Coupled with the Senate's support last week, California became the first state to have both houses pass a bill supporting SSM. While I oppose SSM, I still am happy to see this issue resolved in the legislature and not the courts.

Governor Schwarzenegger seems to believe that the issue should be resolved in the courts or by voters in a referendum. Much of California's legislation has been decided directly by the voters ever since Prop 13 put a cap on property taxes. California's Constitution allows referendums when enough signatures have been collected.

But why would the governor veto a bill because the legislature decided it instead of the voters? If the legislative body cannot make fundamental decisions along these lines, why have one at all? Why not have a referendum on everything? Schwarzenegger should not veto this bill solely because it wasn't decided in a referendum. And he certainly should not be looking to the courts to expand marriage. Leave the courts out of this.

But didn't California recently have a referendum on this issue? Didn't 61% of Californians vote in favor of Prop 22, which allowed the state to only recognize marriages between a man and a woman?

I wonder how the interplay between referendums and legislation affects the law in California. Can legislation overrule a referendum and vice versa? The issue might become moot if the people vote in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban SSM. We'll wait and see.

Update: Apparently Schwarzenegger's point was that the referendum outcome opposed SSM, so he would not support the legislation. Certainly a stronger reason to veto, but casts a shadow on every piece of legislation in California because referenda could overturn any of them. But I still have no idea how referenda and legislation interact, and which one is given preference. If Schwarzenegger holds to his promise to veto, we won't find out either.

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