Gov. Schwarzenegger signs two controversial bills for Calif.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The marriages of same-sex couples who wed out of state will now be recognized in California after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law Oct. 11 validating such unions. The move negated the will of California voters who approved a constitutional amendment last year banning the marriages.

The governor also paved the way for all California public school children to honor Harvey Milk, the nation's first openly gay elected official, by declaring each May 22 as a commemoration in his honor.

Schwarzenegger signed both bills into law just before midnight on the deadline day to do so. The signings angered pro-family advocates who said the state's CEO ignored voter-approved Proposition 8 by granting marriage standing to same-sex couples. The simply worded amendment reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California"

While California's constitution does not allow same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships, which provide all of the same legal rights of marriages, remain intact.

SB 54 will now recognize all same-sex marriages conducted outside the state of California on or before Nov. 5, 2008. A state Supreme Court ruling in the spring of 2008 opened a short window that allowed same-sex marriages in California from June 16 until voters curtailed the practice on the Nov. 4, 2008 ballot.  

Ron Prentice, chairman of the Protect Marriage committee, the broad-based coalition that sponsored the amendment, said he was disappointed that the governor signed SB 54, but was not surprised by Schwarzenegger's actions.

"The governor has sided against Proposition 8, and the governor has ignored the will of the people since November," Prentice said. "So it's no surprise that he continues to open up the gates so that more and more same-sex couples can be recognized in the state."

The signing comes even as a federal lawsuit challenging the new amendment moved forward in mid-October after a judge denied a motion from Proposition 8 sponsors to drop the case.

Prentice said several pro-family legal groups are considering legal action to block SB 54, which was authored by San Francisco Senate Democrat Mark Leno.

"There have been a number of legal organizations that have approached the committee to ask how they can help," Prentice said.

Harvey Milk Day
In addition to recognizing the out-of-state marriages, Schwarzenegger also signed into law SB 572, the Harvey Milk observance day, a similar bill to one he vetoed last year. In vetoing the measure last year, the governor said the decision on whether to honor Milk was best left up to local school districts.

"This disappoints millions of California voters who voted for Proposition 8 in order to protect their children or other children in California from public indoctrination," Prentice said.

In the past year, a major Hollywood film about Milk earned numerous Academy Awards and the former supervisor was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"He has become much more of a symbol of the gay community than he was a year ago because of those things," said Aaron McLear, the governor's spokesman. "That made the difference from last year; he's really come to symbolize the gay community in California." 

The new law encourages public schools to celebrate the strides made by Milk, a San Francisco county board of supervisor who was gunned down in late 1978 during his first year in office. Milk, and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, were killed by Dan White, a former county supervisor, who wanted his job back just days after resigning his post.

Despite attempts to paint Milk as a martyr for the homosexual cause, it appears that White did not target Milk because of his sexuality. Instead, White was reportedly angry because Milk was trying to block his return to the board. Before resigning his supervisor's post, White supported several gay rights measures, including funding for a Pride Center.

Limited accomplishments
Milk's short term on the board, critics said, was less than stellar. In a 1999 article "The Pioneer Harvey Milk," Time magazine reporter John Cloud acknowledged the limited impact the supervisor had during his term.

"As supervisor, Milk sponsored only two laws—predictably, one barring anti-gay discrimination, and, less so, a law forcing dog owners to clean pets' messes from sidewalks," Cloud wrote.

The supervisor was successful, however in helping to block the Briggs Initiative, a ballot initiative that would have prevented homosexuals from teaching in public schools.

Conservative writer Daniel J. Flynn, in a May 21 article "Drinking Harvey Milk's Kool-Aid," for City Journal said Milk was prone to label his opponents as Nazis and was known to victimize his homosexuality in order to earn favor with voters, including alleging he was dishonorably discharged from the Navy because of his sexual orientation even though his official papers recorded four years of honorable service.

Milk also earned headlines for outing a former Marine after he tackled a woman trying to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. 

"It's too good an opportunity," Milk reasoned. "For once we can show that gays do heroic things."

Critics say it's impossible to celebrate the memory of Milk without promoting his homosexuality.

"All school children will be subjected to a positive message about Harvey Milk, specifically about his sexual orientation," Prentice said.

Penny Harrington, California legislative director for Concerned Women for America, said the Milk day observance further erodes the roles of parents in deciding what is appropriate for the children.

"This will be another commemorative exercise that the schools are going to be encouraged to have their students participate in," Harrington said. "Once a year they will bring up the subject of homosexuality to children in K through 12 without parents' knowledge, without their consent, without their involvement. It's a real concern.

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