Last week in a piece for the Advocate, Drew Sweetwater wrote:
In California from 1999 to 2003, Democrats controlled the state legislature, and there was a Democratic governor, Gray Davis. During this time marriage equality (sic) legislation was not made law and upheld in California.
To the present time, many gay rights activists are comfortable dumping millions of dollars into the campaign war chests of Democrats running for office — Equality California, the Human Rights Campaign, and other so-called nonpartisan gay organizations — and they have nothing to show for it. Talk about a bad, fraudulent investment.
He notes a well that at the national level, neither the 110th nor the 111th Congress, both controlled by Democrats, have moved forward on repeal of DOMA.
But, Calfornia is a special case. The leading gay advocacy group, “Equality California,” while, little more than a (gay) front group for the California Democratic Party has great sway in a state capital dominated by Democrats. And they wear their partisanship on their sleeve. Stroll down the street in the city where Drew and I live and you’ll see their storefront headquarters decorated with Boxer and (Jerry) Brown signs.
They’ve long had influence in Sacramento, but never use that influence to put forward innovative solutions to address their concerns. Instead, they constantly lobby for measure upon measure, assuming that whatever they want, they can get through the legislature.
Well, that’s not always the case. In the wake of the passage of Prop 22 in 2000, a measure which codified the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman into state law, they stomped their feet and gnashed their teeth and hoped and prayed some nice, kind judge would spare them the hard work of making the case for state recognition of same-sex marriage.
Did it ever occur to them to play on the conservative rhetoric that elected legislatures, not courts, should decide such issues (rhetoric we have been hearing at least since the 1990s) and lobby the legislature to put a referendum on the ballot to empowering the legislature to define the qualifications for state-recognized marriages in the Golden State? It would be hard to organize opposition to such a measure. And once that passed, the Democratic legislature could have moved forward on recognizing same-sex marriages.
Yeah, they had the power in the legislature, but they also needed to use that power to go directly to the people.
(Of course they did get the legislature to vote on gay marriage in 2005, but Prop. 22 and Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto stood in their way.)
And now, they have what they thought was their dream, a court overturning a popular initiative they don’t like, only to have an appellate court stay the ruling. Fellas, we’re back on the gay marriage roller coaster, elation one day at a favorable ruling, despondency the next week when another court acts contrary to their wishes.
Better to learn from the fine folks in the Granite State which recognized gay marriage the right way, through the elected state legislature, followed by a back-and-forth with the elected Governor who wanted to ensure that the measure protected the liberty of individual churches,s I wrote last June, “to define marriage according to their creed.” A compromise was reached (by elected officials). And the law was signed.
If you go the way of the legislature, you won’t be subject to judicial whim.
And that might have been possible had our gay leaders learned to think outside of the box — and working with the California Democratic legislature and a Democratic Governor when they had a chance, developed innovative means to push their agenda..