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2000-03-07

Californians to Vote on Proposition 22, which Bans Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages

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Today is Super Tuesday, and voters in California will decide on a number of ballot measures. One of these is Proposition 22, the California Protection of Marriage Initiative. It states that "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California." [includes rush transcript]

California now allows only non-gay couples to marry, but it does validate marriages that are legal in the state where they were performed. Prop 22 would prohibit the state from recognizing these out-of state, same-sex marriages. Of the 20 propositions on the ballot in California, dealing with a slew of social and economic issues, Proposition 22 is generating the most heat. California churches are among those lined up on both sides of the proposal.

The measure was sponsored by Republican State Senator Pete Knight, whose gay son is among the proposition’s opponents.

Guest:

  • Jenny Pizer, managing attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we head south, we’re going to California. Yes, today is Super Tuesday, and voters in California are deciding on a number of ballot measures, 20 in all. One of these is Proposition 22, the California Protection of Marriage Initiative. It states that "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” California now allows only non-gay couples to marry. But it does validate marriages that are legal in the state where they were performed. Prop 22 would prohibit the state from recognizing these out-of-state same-sex marriages.

We’re joined now by Jenny Pizer, who’s managing attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

JENNY PIZER: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about what are the chances for Prop 22 in California, this anti-gay marriage ballot measure?

JENNY PIZER: Well, it’s really hard to call. There’s been a lot of media coverage and lots of ads on both sides of the issue, and a lot of people talking about this measure. It’s been one of the most hotly debated ones during this election season. So, it’s going to depend how many people get out and vote today.

AMY GOODMAN: So the measure was sponsored by Republican State Senator Pete Knight, whose gay son is among the proposition’s opponents?

JENNY PIZER: Yes, Pete Knight has had some sort of personal obsession with gay people and whether we can marry for years now. He started on this crusade to try to prevent gay and lesbian people from being able to marry or have marriages recognized in California back four years ago with a couple measures. He’s had three measures that he brought forward in the state legislature. And when he didn’t make any progress there, he’s taken it to the voters.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about exactly what this bill means. I mean, if it were passed, it says that if gay marriage is accepted in other states, it would be accepted in California. But at this point it is not accepted. Is that right? Except perhaps Vermont?

JENNY PIZER: Well, at this point, no states allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. And so, this is really — that underscores why this is such a pointless and divisive measure here in California. Pete Knight says that there’s some sort of — he sees some sort of threat to, quote, “traditional marriage” here in California. And what we hope people will see is that this is just one more in a history of quite divisive measures, ballot measures, here in California that pick on a particular group of people and ask the majority to take a vote on a measure, when in fact the marriage law in California is what it is, and this measure won’t change anything one way or the other. Our big concern, really, is that if it is passed, it may be used in the future here in California as a legal tool for denying gay and lesbian people other sorts of legal rights. We’ve seen this sort of so-called protection of marriage type measure used like that in other states.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the money coming from in fueling the ads? Yesterday, looking at the juvenile justice bill, Prop 21, I think it was, we saw Chevron and Pacific Gas and Electric pouring money in to this bill. What about the anti-gay marriage statute, Prop 22?

JENNY PIZER: Well, a lot of the money has come from ultra-conservative folks like Howard Ahmanson, who has had an anti-gay agenda himself for a very long time. He’s actually known for having advocated that gay people should have been put to death. Of course, many of the funders aren’t quite that extreme. But the Mormon Church has put an enormous amount of money in, and the Catholic Church has, too, and some other very, very conservative religious organizations.

So this is not a measure that has had institutional support, I’m pleased to say. And in fact, there’s been an enormous outpouring of voices against it from lots of elected officials — most of the leading Democratic leaders, everyone from President Clinton and presidential candidates Gore and Bradley, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, a number of leading Republicans, and also many of the —- in fact, most of the main -—

AMY GOODMAN: McCain has come out for it. Is that right? And Bush hasn’t taken a stand?

JENNY PIZER: Actually, Bush and McCain both have come out for it, which wasn’t really a surprise. But most of the leading newspapers in the state also have come out against it. So, it’s really a question of whether people understand that it may have a lot of consequences other than whatever the marriage law is, because the marriage law isn’t going to be changed either way, in terms of whether people can marry in California or can marry in any other state anytime immediately soon.

AMY GOODMAN: Jenny Pizer, thanks for being with us, managing attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, speaking to us from Los Angeles. The proposition is Proposition 22. It’s called the California Protection of Marriage Initiative, and it would rule out gay marriages that are performed in other states from being recognized in California.

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