Two of the men at the center of a controversy over same-sex marriages in California traded opposing viewpoints on separate television appearances Sunday. The majority of Americans around the country oppose the idea of gay marriage.
Ten days ago, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered City Hall to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Conservative groups have sued to stop the city's action. A California judge scheduled a hearing, but refused to issue orders halting the unions, saying opponents of same-sex marriage have failed to prove the weddings would cause irreparable harm to society.
So far, San Francisco authorities have married more than 3,000 same-sex couples.
Speaking on the NBC television program Meet the Press, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he has directed the state's attorney general to "take care of the problem." "I felt very strongly that it has to be done now because it started out as a little thing. I didn't say anything at the beginning, but then it got to be a bigger issue, and a bigger issue," he said.
Governor Schwarzenegger said he supports the issue of domestic partnership rights, but he said gay marriages are not allowed by California law. More specifically, he pointed to Proposition 22, which defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. More than 60 percent of Californians voted to pass the proposition two years ago. "We cannot now have, all of a sudden now, mayors go and hand out licenses for various different things. If it is in San Francisco, it's the license for the marriage of same sex. Maybe the next thing is another city that hands out licenses for assault weapons, and someone else hands out licenses for selling drugs. I mean, we can't do that. We have to stay within the law," he said.
On CNN's Late Edition, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he does not believe he is breaking the law, because he feels Proposition 22 contravenes the California constitution's equal protection clause. "Just 45 days ago, I took an oath of office to bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the state of California. And there's nothing in that constitution that says that I have the right to discriminate against people on any basis. And I simply won't do that," he said.
The San Francisco mayor also rejected accusations that his actions are going against public opinion. "If you wait for public opinion, again, nothing changes. Polls, to me, don't matter. Principles matter," he said. "That's the foundation of this country, it's people standing up on principle and moving the agenda forward and bringing people together, focused on our common humanity and decency."
Mayor Newsom said his decision came in response to President Bush's comments defining marriage as between a man and a woman, in his State of the Union speech at the end of January.
Variances in state jurisdiction is another sticky issue. The Republican governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, told Late Edition his state would not legally recognize gay marriages sanctioned in California or Massachusetts, another state that is also debating the issue. "We don't want to recognize California's law or Massachusetts' law in Colorado," he said.
At the same time, the attorney general of New Mexico is warning that gay marriage licenses recently issued in a small town in that state are illegal and will not be valid.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll last week said about two-thirds of Americans surveyed oppose the concept of same-sex marriage, while only about one-third support it.