A ballot measure has been proposed for 2012 that would legalize same-sex marriage in California, but it could face some surprising opposition — same-sex marriage advocates.
A group led by two recent college graduates, who say they are associated with no religion nor any LGBT groups, have proposed the Civil Marriage Act of California to the Attorney General’s Office. They are still awaiting a title and summary, then will begin collecting signatures.
The act intends to make a clear distinction between government-approved and religious marriage. It would replace every mention of the word “marriage” in the state code and constitution with “civil marriage,” and make explicit that religious organizations could refuse to wed same-sex couples if they so choose. It would also repeal the language imposed on the state constitution by Proposition 8, which declared that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
“We see this as a long-term solution and model for the rest of the nation,” said Ali Shams, who came up with the idea for the measure with his friend Tyler Dosaj.
But the groups that led the fight against Prop. 8 in 2008 and have considered launching a ballot measure to repeal it in 2012 aren’t convinced this is the right approach.
“People don’t say ‘I got a religious marriage’ or ‘a civil marriage,’ they say ‘I am married,’” said Rebekah Orr, spokeswoman for Equality California. “The legal distinction is lost on people, because for most people, marriage is not about the law — it’s about making the commitment to the person you love.”
She said the higher priority is to make marriage available “to all committed couples.”
Stuart Gaffney, spokesman for Marriage Equality USA said the civil marriage measure “is probably well-intentioned,” but remained dubious about whether it was a good idea to add it to the ballot — especially when the courts may resolve the issue before November 2012.
“One of the lessons of Proposition 8 is putting a minority’s rights up for a majority’s vote is not the way to advance civil rights,” he said.
In fact, much of the language of the law is similar to a bill authored by San Francisco state Sen. Mark Leno last year vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That bill would have replaced “marriage” with “civil marriage” in law, and would have made clear in statute that religious representatives were not obligated to solemnize marriages of same-sex couples if they chose not to. Leno said he has not been consulted about the proposed ballot measure.
Opponents of same-sex marriage were not wooed by the language separating civil and religious marriage either. Brad Dacus, president of Prop. 8 defender Pacific Justice Institute, said the issue “is not a civil liberty question.”
“The question is what we want the government to be endorsing and affirming,” Dacus said. “It’s very simplistic to think that merely creating civil marriage is going to take away the real underlying question of what furthers the general welfare of the state.”
What the Civil Marriage Act of California would do: