Gay Marriage: Courts or the Ballot Box?

An internal gay-rights squabble could determine the fate of same-sex nuptials. Plus, Dem leader plans to sue Schwarzenegger.

When the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 earlier this
year, the main question for gay-rights activists was whether they would
fight for same-sex marriage in court or at the ballot box. A lesbian
couple from Berkeley struck first when they filed suit in federal
court, seeking to not only overturn Prop. 8, but to legalize gay
marriage throughout the nation. But then prominent gay-rights groups
immediately criticized the move, arguing that the US Supreme Court was
not ready to recognize same-sex nuptials and that it would be better to
put a measure on the 2010 or 2012 state ballot. We should know soon
which path looks the most promising as the squabble within the
gay-rights movement plays itself out.

On one side, the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are convinced
that their gay-rights comrades are attempting to sabotage their case so
that they can seek a political resolution instead. Late last week, the
plaintiffs asked a federal judge to block other gay-rights groups from
intervening in the case, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The plaintiffs believe that other groups will purposely bog down the
case while campaigning for a ballot measure. In a legal filing, thet
wrote: “Having declined to bring their own federal challenge to Prop.
8,” the other gay-rights groups “should not be able to usurp
plaintiffs’ lawsuit.”

As for a ballot measure, gay-rights advocates may decide this week
whether to launch an initiative drive for next year’s election or wait
until 2012. The advantage of waiting is that Barack Obama likely will
seek reelection three years from now, and will draw millions of
liberals and progressives to the polls. On the other hand, the federal
legal challenge may be resolved by 2012 — and if it loses in
court again, it could sour the public on the gay-marriage cause.

By contrast, Californians appear to be ready to support same-sex
nuptials now. According to a Field Poll released last week, state
residents’ support gay marriage by five percentage points, 49 percent
to 44 percent, the Chronicle reported. That’s a turnaround from
last November when Prop. 8 won 52 percent to 48 percent. Prop. 8
opponents likely will decide this week whether to go for the 2010 or
2012 election. Organizers need to gather about 1 million signatures to
qualify for the ballot and the Secretary of State’s Office wants them
to submit their ballot measure by September 25 if they are to be on the
November 2010 ballot.

Dem Leader to Sue Schwarzenegger

Speaking of lawsuits, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell
Steinberg plans to sue Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for making nearly
$500 million in last-minute cuts to the state budget, according to the
Chron. The governor’s cuts could harm social and health programs
for the poor and lead to the closure of up to 100 state parks.
Steinberg also said the cuts would upset the state government’s balance
of power. At issue is whether the governor has the authority to use his
line-item-veto to cut programs already slashed by the Legislature or
whether he can only cut new spending. The state’s Legislative counsel
said last week that the cuts were illegal, while the governor maintains
he did nothing wrong.

But the Legislature has its own explaining to do. According to the
Chron, legislators went on a hiring binge earlier this year,
adding 336 employees to their offices even as they were lecturing other
agencies about the need for belt-tightening during the downturn.

Among our favorite nuggets: Four employees were hired to staff the
Assembly’s Select Committee on K-16 Articulation, Access and
Affordability. The only problem? The committee has yet to hold a public
hearing this year. Plus, there were the two staffers — with
annual salaries of $85,416 and $46,500 — and the two
$1,500-a-month interns who were hired for the Select Committee on Air
Quality. And you guessed it. That committee also has yet to hold a
hearing.

A New Operator for the Parkway?

In Oakland, it looks like an effort to reopen the beloved Parkway
movie theater has changed course. A group of Midwestern investors known
as Motion Picture Heritage Corporation, has backed out of the deal,
according to former Parkway programmer and host Will Viharo, who
represented the Midwestern group in talks with the city. However, a new
possible operator has emerged — Mark Haskett, former operator of
Alameda’s Central Cinema, which was loosely modeled on the Parkway with
couches and a casual atmosphere, but was forced to close shortly after
the opening of the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex in May 2008. According
Viharo, Haskett would operate the theater half of the former Parkway
and a separate business would operate the restaurant.

Three-Dot Roundup

As student fees skyrocket and UC employees brace for layoffs and pay
cuts, the governing Board of Regents awarded pay raises and lucrative
financial perks to highly paid executives, the Chron reported.
… An Oakland cop shot and killed an axe-wielding East Oakland man
inside a liquor store, but store clerks and the dead man’s family
members questioned the shooting. … Oakland cops also were caught on
tape Tasering an allegedly drunken and uncooperative A’s fan during a
ballgame last week. … The national unemployment rate dipped slightly
to 9.4 percent in July, the first drop in fifteen months. … And Bill
Clinton helped free two Bay Area TV journalists during a secret trip to
North Korea.

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