LOS ANGELES: County supervisors latest to urge overturning gay marriage ban

Proposition 8 supporters: 'voters have spoken' twice
November 13, 2008

The furor over California's controversial gay marriage ban escalated November 12 as sporadic protestors, dissonant religious voices, the Los Angeles County board of supervisors and even superstar Sir Elton John weighed in on opposite sides of the fray. After hearing from more than a dozen speakers, including the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity USA, an Episcopal gay rights activist group, the Los Angeles supervisors agreed to join a lawsuit challenging Proposition 8. "Some of us may ask why the county supervisors would be involved and get so involved in this issue," Supervisor Gloria Molina said, citing the board's responsibility to supply marriage licenses, uphold the law and "balance the enforcement of Proposition 8 with recognizing the constitutional right of all our citizens." Molina added, "On a personal note, I am here to say that the passage of Prop. 8 saddened and angered me on various levels." The lawsuit, filed by the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara County, seeks to overturn the initiative, approved 52% to 48% in the November 4 election, and which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. "So much of the rhetoric that has fueled the fires of discrimination in this election was fueled by religious voices insisting that somehow they had the entitlement to write their theology into our constitution," Russell, an associate rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, told supervisors during their regular November 12 meeting. The Pasadena parish, known for social activism, married 43 couples "from June 17 to November 4," Russell said. In nearly 20 years of counseling troubled marriages, she said she had "never had a couple in my office telling me the problem with their marriage was the gay couple down the street." The Rev. Zelda Kennedy, associate rector at All Saints, Pasadena, also addressed the supervisors, as a "straight black female. I know what it's like to be discriminated against," Kennedy said. "This is an issue of discrimination. If we discriminate against any group of people, we discriminate against ourselves, because we're all in this together." But other Episcopalians, including the Rev. Bill Laucher, rector of St. Alban's Church in Houston, Texas, disagreed that the ban is a justice issue. "To name it as such is to hijack an essential Christian value, one of our baptismal promises, and use it to further a cause that goes against God's plan for his children." Laucher asserted that the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer (BCP), as well as Scripture, each state "that God's ideal for us concerning marriage is the union of husband and wife. Society did not make this up and it is not subject to the shifting winds of society's changing moral standards." Proposition 8 supporters called the supervisors' decision disappointing, adding that it disregarded the will of the people. "It doesn't matter how many politicians line up to ask the court to overturn Prop 8," said Andy Pugno, attorney for ProtectMarriage.com. "What matters is that the majority of the voters approved Proposition 8, regardless of opposition from many of these politicians. That is what ballot measures are for. We are confident Prop 8 will be upheld on its own merits." Celebrities and others weigh in at protests Daily protests have continued from Sacramento to Salt Lake City since the election, with demonstrators targeting Mormon temples as well as Catholic churches, seen as contributors to the bill's passage. The measure has also sparked differing opinions within The Episcopal Church (TEC), although the six California bishops had opposed Proposition 8. But Kevin Kroeger, a parishioner at St. John's Church in Corona, California, said he voted for Proposition 8 to send a message that "maybe our wonderful, conversational church is more divided on this issue than the Bishops may think, and that their rather unilateral approach to this issue should be derailed into more conversation and contemplation." Kroeger said he is supportive of a gay couple's rights to marry civilly "but unconvinced that our blessed sacraments are out of date." He added, "Twice the people have spoken on this subject, and it has become law. Twice, I believe, I will live to see it overturned." He said he is disheartened with the anger directed "at our Mormon and Catholic brothers and sisters who contributed to the Yes On 8 campaign. "Both sides raised literally millions of dollars, and my heart breaks to see the churches singled out as to why this proposition passed. I believe it had more to do with voters' consciences, and less to do with money." The latest estimates indicate that about $40 million was spent by anti-Prop 8 campaigners; while the Yes on 8 campaign spent about $72 million. TEC's stance doesn't represent his views, Kroeger added. "I don't feel that I am being represented fairly by the motions taken towards the changing of sacrament of holy matrimony,” he said. While remaining at his parish and in dialogue about future worship possibilities, he added: “A friend of mine put it best when he said “I'm just keeping my head buried in the BCP for now.” Religious voices aren't the only ones in disagreement, either. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who reversed his earlier stance on the ban, has also urged the state Supreme Court to overturn the initiative. “I learned that you should never give up…” he said to gay marriage supporters, during a November 9 CNN interview. He called Proposition 8's passage "unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end. I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area." The State Supreme Court is weighing three cases seeking overturn of the measure as unconstitutional. The legal challenges, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, contend that since Proposition 8 amends the state constitution and takes away fundamental rights, it cannot be passed by voters. Jenny Pizer, senior legal counsel with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the legal groups opted to file their case directly with the Supreme Court and not the lower courts because of the severity of the issue. "It affects so many people and presents a legal question this Supreme Court has ultimate authority to answer," she said. "The suggestion that a particular group of minority people should be stripped of a fundamental right is such a monumental change to the constitution. If that can be done it means the equal protection guarantee doesn't exist in the way it is supposed to exist. A simple majority can take away a right and a minority group cannot protect itself at the ballot box." But British superstar Sir Elton John, who nearly three years ago tied the knot in a civil ceremony with partner David Furnish, said efforts to defeat Proposition 8 failed because "they went for marriage. "I don't want to be married," he said. "I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," he added. "The word 'marriage', I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships." --Various wire services contributed to this report.