California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office, which advises lawmakers of both parties, is used to getting some attention for its reports. But they may not be ready for the scrutiny their report on same-sex marriage's fiscal impact may have nationwide.
Under the category of "here's a story you don't see every day," The Advocate offers a preview of the LAO's report and suggests -- correctly, I believe -- that undecided voters could be convinced to oppose November's anti-gay marriage initiative if clear evidence emerges of same-sex marriage's economic benefits to the state.
Perhaps California's move to legalize same-sex marriages really does have legs. According to Politicker, the sponsor of an effort to force a referendum on a Maine law barring discrimination against gays and lesbians has thrown in the towel. He lacked money, people, and, it appears, political support. The same thing happened earlier this week with a referendum in Oregon.
The LA Times has an excellent, interactive marriage map, that shows how counties are responding to the legalization of same-sex marriage and also has data, county by county, on the estimated number of same-sex couples.
While a handful of places permitted gay couples to get married last night, this morning is the real statewide kick-off of same-sex marriage in California. County clerk's offices are required to grant marriage licenses (Please let us know here on the blog if you find anyone balking) as they open for business this a.m. Yes, clerks in Kern and Butte Counties have said they won't perform marriages anymore, gay or straight; they say it's that they can't handle the numbers, but they're really gay marriage opponents who are part of a clever strategy of trying to stir a backlash by making it harder for straight couples to get married.
No problems yet, and I don't expect many. These newly married gay couples represent the best advertising against the November initiative. It will be important for gay marriage supporters -- who are on the "no" side of the initiative -- to keep the focus on these human questions and away from trickier legal issues. My New America colleague Mark Paul likes to say they should call it the "Forced Divorce" Initiative. If the initiative passes, these marriages are likely to face legal challenges.
That's the question I attempt to answer in this piece in Sunday's Washington Post.
Victory for gay couples is near in California, if advocates for gay marraige don't blow it. The following Los Angeles Times op-ed by Neal Broverman of the Advocate makes precisely the kind of argument that supporters of gays' rights to marry must avoid if they want to beat an initiative seeking to ban gay marriage this fall.
Broverman goes after the initiative process, arguing that a majority of voters shouldn't be able to make a decision like this. With this argument, Broverman walks into a trap. Gay marriage opponents counter by saying they support the people's right to vote on this and slam the California Supreme Court decision as anti-democratic. It's easy to see which side gets the better of that exchange. Supporters of gay marriage rights would do better to embrace the initiative and frame the debate around the word "respect" -- respect for the court's decision, and respect for couples who want to marry the poeple they love. That's a winning argument in California -- unless gay marriage supporters follow Broverman's lead and foolishly try to attack people's right to make laws by iniitiative. That's a right Californians cherish, and it's a right that is far more popular with the public than the right of gay couples to marry.
Gay couples in Sonoma County, California, say they will go forward with marriages despite fears that an initiative to ban such unions could pass in November and lead to their marriages being thrown out. A couple that married in San Francisco in 2004 -- those marriage were invalidated -- is quoted as saying they will get married "no matter how many times it takes."
Republican presidential nominee John McCain said Tuesday that California voters, not judges, should decide who gets married in the state. Perhaps this simply states the obvious--the initiative to ban same-sex marriage will be on the November ballot. But it feels like a political mistake. In the recent past, McCain's advisors have suggested they see California as in play with a Schwarzenegger-style campaign -- that is, an approach that avoids talk of social issues and instead emphasizes fiscal issues and the importance of bipartisanship. By wading into this initiative, McCain, who never had much of a chance anyway in California (where polls show Obama would have won a California primary held on June 3, the originally scheduled date), is eschewing the Schwarzenegger approach. In fact, attempting to use the same-sex marriage issue in any way feels positively Rovian. In the process, McCain shows he's not serious about winning the state.
The figure is an estimate of the financial benefit to the state's economy over the next three years. (Gay couple can marry in California beginning June 17). The study is not on the web site of UCLA's Williams Institute, but the LA Times has the story today.
One might think such a figure would have no political impact in how Californians decide a controversial social issue such as same-sex marriage. But we have a history of voting with our pocketbooks even on such issues. In 2004, for example, Californians approved a ballot initiative floating a $3 billion bond for stem cell research, despite strong federal prohibitions on such research. In other states, stem cell research was debated as an ethical issue. Here, the governor argued for the financial advantages that would accrue to California from taking a leadership role in such research. That was a winning argument. Polling shows that moral arguments made little impact.
In the recent California Supreme Court case, the office of Attorney General Jerry Brown defended the state's ban on same-sex marriage. But Brown indicated this week that with the court's ruling, he is effectively switching sides and is opposing any attempts to delay the implementation of the ruling.