The fact that Republicans are holding up the marriage equality bill in the New York Legislature is yet another reminder of how heartlessly they play politics with the lives of their fellow citizens.
It is also instructive, perhaps, to remember that a similar but now nearly forgotten episode — or, rather, episodes — happened in California not very long ago, and I’m not talking about Prop 8.
In New York, the Democratic governor supports the bill pending in the legislature. In our case, the situation was reversed, in a sense, the Democratic-controlled legislature passed two bills, in succession, that would have made marriage equality legal, but they were vetoed by the Republican governor, who was, ironically, a notorious serial adulterer.
Here’s the recap from the Wikipedia page, Same-sex marriage in California:
When California State Legislature opened the 2005-2006 session, Assembly member Mark Leno introduced Assembly Bill 19, which proposed legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill enjoyed the support of then-Speaker Fabian Núñez among others. Leno had introduced a similar bill in the prior session, but it died in committee. Assembly committees reported out Assembly Bill 19 favorably, but the measure failed on the Assembly floor on June 2, 2005. Later that month, Assembly member Patty Berg amended the text of her fisheries-research measure, Assembly Bill 849, which was already in the Senate, to the text of Leno’s failed bill.
On September 2, 2005, the California Senate approved the bill 21-15 and on September 6, the California State Assembly followed suit with a vote of 41-35, making California’s legislature the first in the nation to approve a same-sex marriage bill without court pressure. The next day, Sept. 7, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated he would veto the bill, citing Proposition 22, which had passed with the approval of a majority of voters five years earlier.
Like the statutes amended by AB 849, Prop 22 prohibited the state from recognizing same-sex marriages, but as an initiative statute, it was not affected by AB 849. The legislature avoided physically delivering the bill to the governor for over two weeks, during which time advocacy groups urged Schwarzenegger to change his mind. Ultimately, the bill was delivered on September 23 and vetoed on September 29, 2005.
Schwarzenegger stated he believed that same-sex marriage should be settled by the courts or another vote by the people via a statewide initiative or referendum. He argued that the legislature’s bill simply complicated the issue, as the constitutionality of Proposition 22 had not yet been determined, and its ultimate disposition would render AB 849 either unconstitutional (being in conflict with a valid voter initiative) or redundant (being guaranteed by the California Constitution itself, as construed by the courts).
Shortly after the newly elected Assembly was sworn in, Leno resubmitted a similar bill on December 4, 2006. AB 43 was passed by the legislature in early September 2007, giving the governor until October 14, 2007, to either sign or veto the bill. Schwarzenegger had stated months before that he would veto AB 43 on the grounds that the issue at hand had already been voted on by California by way of Proposition 22. The governor followed through on his statement and on October 12, 2007, he vetoed AB 43.
Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto statement that to solve the issue of gender-neutral marriage, the California Supreme Court needed to finish its rule on the challenge which had been made to Proposition 22.
The following May, the Republican-majority California Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality should be legal in the state. Around that same time anti-equality forces were successful in putting Proposition 8 on the ballot.
During the period that marriage equality was legal in California, from June 16 to Nov. 5, 2008, about 18,000 gay couples were married in California.
Oh, and another thing to keep in mind: When Schwarzenegger vetoed marriage equality in 2005 and 2007, the illegitimate son he had with his family’s housekeeper was ages seven and nine, respectively.