Gay marriages and mandates
When the new California Legislature convenes next month, there will be a number of Democrats who would like to see the issue of gay marriage go away for this session. Looking at the nationwide vote that resulted in the re-election of President Bush and the strengthening of Republican majorities in Congress, they believe that the gay marriage issue has damaged the party nationally. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for instance, has made no secret of her belief that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome hurt the party by deciding to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, raising the visibility of the issue.
But in the Legislature, there is another election reality to factor in. Of the 80 members of the Assembly, which ones do you suppose received the most votes this month? Leading the pack was San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, one of two gay men in the Legislature and the author of the gay-marriage bill that last year cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Leno received 148,235 votes, or about 10,000 more than the second highest vote-getter -- Democrat Paul Koretz, who represents Southern California's most prominent gay community, West Hollywood. Koretz received 137,830 votes. No one else topped 130,000.
Voters in gay communities turn out at the polls. Some of Leno's colleagues may wish he wouldn't bring up the issue again next year, but his constituents clearly have a different point of view.
Which way will the issue go? The first clue will come when Speaker Fabian Nunez announces the new makeup of the Judiciary Committee, on which there are five Democratic vacancies.