After Passage of Anti-Marriage Measure, Californians Must Unite for Gay Equality
(LOS ANGELES, March 8, 2000) — California voters have approved Proposition 22, a divisive ballot measure that for the first time in California history restricts which out-of-state marriages the state government will honor. But the terms of the debate regarding gay people’s equality and freedom to marry have shifted dramatically, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Wednesday, and the challenge now for the measure’s backers is to show that the Knight Initiative was not aimed at harming lesbian and gay families.
“We will hold Prop. 22 supporters to their word. Throughout their campaign, they insisted that the initiative was not about attacking gay people. Now that the measure has been passed, will its backers make a meaningful commitment to support essential legal protections for lesbians and gay men?” asked Jennifer C. Pizer, managing attorney of Lambda’s Western Regional Office and a board member of the No On Knight campaign.
“We’re obviously disappointed that Prop. 22 passed, but we will move forward in a constructive way, working with all fair-minded Californians to address the troubling reality that lesbian and gay families lack most of the legal safeguards that non-gay families take for granted,” she added.
Prop. 22 revises the state’s marriage laws, forcing the government to discriminate against some out-of-state marriages while recognizing all others – including those not permitted in California based on blood relationship, age, and other restrictions. The measure, named for its author, arch-conservative state Senator Pete Knight, takes aim at the possibility that gay couples will win the freedom to marry in some state in the future, and then seek recognition for their marriages in California.
Lambda Marriage Project Director Evan Wolfson noted, however, that a sure sign of progress was the broad opposition to Prop. 22, including: President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Senators Bill Bradley, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer, Governor Gray Davis and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, all Democrats; Republicans Congressman Tom Campbell, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, San Diego Mayor Susan Golding and the California Republican League; as well as the non-partisan League of Women Voters of California and almost all of the state’s major newspapers.
“As in any civil rights movement, winning the freedom to marry is a long-haul struggle and we will be there as long as it takes to secure full equality,” said Wolfson, adding, “Increasingly people are recognizing society’s interest in protecting gay families and the value of long term gay relationships. That’s a big advance from just four years ago, when virulent anti-gay rhetoric dominated the Congressional debates over the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.”
“Back then the question was whether gay families should be recognized at all. Today the debate is about how to recognize them equally,” he said, referring to Vermont, where legislation to extend the legal protections of marriage to lesbian and gay couples is being crafted. Also, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last year showed that two-thirds of Americans believe gay people will win the freedom to marry in the future.
Headquartered in New York and founded in 1973, Lambda is the nation’s oldest and largest gay legal group. It’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles is now marking its 10th anniversary. Lambda also has a Midwest Regional Office in Chicago and a Southern Regional Office in Atlanta.
CONTACT: Jennifer C. Pizer 323-937-2728, ext. 223, or Peg Byron 212-809-8585 or 888-987-1984 (pager)