Tuesday, September 25

State comes out for gay marriage ““ finally


Legislature's Brave, historic decision a turning point in fight for equal rights

I woke up the morning of Sept. 6 with high hopes but no
expectations. I was on my way to Sacramento to watch the California
State Assembly vote on AB 849, a bill that would legalize same-sex
marriage in California.

The bill failed to pass the Assembly by a mere four votes
earlier in the summer, but was revived in the Senate, where it won
by a one-vote margin.

The bill was sent back to the Assembly for another try at
history ““ as California neared becoming the first state to
achieve marriage equality without a court order.

I arrived around 10 a.m. and met up with the 90 other supporters
who had managed to get time off from work and other obligations for
this historic event. We spent the first hour or two of the day
lobbying undecided representatives to encourage their support of
equality.

We then headed over to the gallery to watch the Assembly in
action, and the waiting began.

Hours passed by, and still no vote on the bill. By 6 p.m., there
were still about 50 supporters watching and waiting from the
gallery, but they had not yet brought the bill to the floor.

Just as we were beginning to think it would not come up, the
floor was turned over to the author of AB 849, openly gay
assemblyman Mark Leno, for opening remarks on the bill.

The next hour and a half was filled with intense debate.
Supporters and opponents of the bill took turns explaining their
positions, passionately incorporating religion, morality and our
country’s deepest ideals to support their arguments.

The suspense was unbearable ““ we needed 41 votes, and knew
that it was going to come down to the very last one.

The turning point came when Assemblyman Tom Umberg, from Orange
County, stood up to speak. He had abstained on this issue back in
June, and we badly needed his support this time around. People held
their breath, waiting to hear what he would say.

Umberg, a UCLA alumnus, explained that certain issues required
leaders to vote their conscience. He was worried what his children
would think, looking back at his record, if he did not support
equality. He apologized for his past abstention and said how proud
he was to support this bill.

The gallery erupted into its first cheer, but was quickly
silenced. After another half hour of debate, it was finally time
for the vote.

The room was completely silent as voting began. Numbers quickly
shot up on the voting screen, recording both aye and nay votes.
When the numbers came to rest, we had 40 votes ““ one short of
the required 41.

We stared in disbelief. Could this really happen? All this hard
work, the countless hours it took to get this far, to fail by one
vote?

We sat there for five seconds, 10 seconds, and nothing happened.
We sat there for what seemed like an eternity, hoping and praying
for one more vote.

Then, seconds before the voting was closed, Simón Salinas,
of Salinas County, registered an aye vote, giving us the 41 we
needed. The gallery erupted in jubilation, as couples laughed, wept
and held each other in joy and relief.

But this vote will not be the last word on this issue. Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will veto it, meaning it will
never even become law.

Even if it is signed into law, we are still facing anti-gay
initiatives on our state ballot next June that would ban same-sex
marriage and overturn this or any other law achieving marriage
equality.

However, nothing can take away from the Legislature’s
brave and historic action, and a vote that will likely be
remembered as a turning point in our fight for equality.

Rose is the president of the Student Coalition for Marriage
Equality.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.