- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

It’s now official: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is not the state Supreme Court, the legislature, the California electorate and the U.S. Supreme Court all rolled into one — despite His Slickness’ pretensions to pre-empt all the above.

So ruled the California Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision by Chief Justice Ron George voiding the 4,000-plus same-sex “marriages” illegally performed in San Francisco at Mr. Newsom’s behest.

Basically, the court found California law is clear: Marriage is legal only for heterosexual couples, a rule the electorate reinforced when 61 percent of California voters in 2000 passed a measure banning same-sex “marriage.” What’s more, as the Supreme Court’s decision noted, city lawyers could not point to “any judicial decision that has held a statute limiting marriage to a man and a woman unconstitutional under the California or federal Constitution.” That is: Mr. Newsom presumed to speak for the courts, when, as he should have been aware, the courts said the exact opposite.

Now (as before), if Mr. Newsom wants to change California marriage laws, he must go to the voters, through the legislature or the courts. He is not king. He cannot rewrite laws by fiat.

Mr. Newsom told CNN he didn’t regret the City Hall nuptials. “We put a human face on discrimination,” he said.

That’s true. San Francisco’s Winter of Love showed America the face of committed gay and lesbian couples — a nice break from the pierced-tongue-and-leather-crowd some homophobes like to see as representing the entire homosexual community.

Thing is, Mr. Newsom could have orchestrated legal test cases against state law or appealed to the legislature and still garnered that positive PR. Instead, he chose a stunt.

For the couples who tied the knot in rushed ceremonies at City Hall, the weddings were no stunt. But the lovers knew (as did Mr. Newsom) what the law said, and that last Thursday’s decision was inevitable.

As Chief Justice George wrote, if Mr. Newsom can override laws he doesn’t like, other mayors can override laws they don’t like, such as the assault-weapons ban — because they believe it violates the Second Amendment.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer noted that if the court had upheld Mr. Newsom’s nuptials, “local elected officials throughout the state would have license to ignore any state laws they disagree with whether for personal, philosophical or political reasons.” Chief Justice George noted, America could no longer pride itself as being “a government of laws, and not of men.”

Homosexual advocates may respond that their entitlement to equal rights is so strong they need not worry about process. They note that black civil rights leaders engaged in civil disobedience, thus they equate San Francisco’s same-sex “marriages” to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus.

But that comparison doesn’t work. Homosexuals have always been able to vote and enjoy other civil rights. They have won domestic partnerships in California. For most of the Newsom newlyweds, the remaining differences are whether the federal government recognizes the San Francisco unions — which it never did — and whether they are marriages or partnerships.

In 2000, I was among the minority of Californians who voted in favor of same-sex “marriage.” I believe in love and marriage. As far as I am concerned, if homosexual couples want to wed, more power to them.

That’s all the more reason why, as a supporter of same-sex “marriage,” I would like to see it legitimized the right way. I would rather see homosexual advocates win by pushing a bill through the legislature, or by persuading Californians to vote their way in a new a ballot initiative, than to win in the courts. The reason: They will have more popular support if they win by wooing the people. If the price is calling the unions something other than marriage, so be it.

That’s the position ofWhite House hopefuls John Kerry and John Edwards and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is running for re-election. All three Democrats say they support civil unions but oppose same-sex “marriage.” And still homosexual advocates support these politicians.

Maybe the advocates think Mr. Kerry and company aren’t telling voters what they really think. Or maybe it shows politics and marriage can work for everyone — and that everything, including marriage, isn’t in a name.

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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