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    Empassioned Oratory, Heated Colloquy And Overflow Crowd: Council Resolution Opposing Fed'l Ban On Same Sex Marriage Fails 4-4

    (June 2, 2004) -- The Long Beach City Council chamber was filled beyond capacity -- and the adjacent Main Library auditorium was pressed into service with a televised feed to handle the overflow crowd -- as the legislative body of California's fifth largest city confronted a proposed resolution on the subject of same sex marriage.June 1/04 Council re marriage amendment
    Courtesy LBTV 8

    A resolution (text below) proposed at the June 1 Council meeting by Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal, Dan Baker and Tonia Reyes Uranga sought to oppose federal legislation which, if passed by 2/3 of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and ratified by legislatures of 3/4 of the states within seven years, would amend the U.S. Constitution to provide that U.S. marriages "shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman" and neither the U.S. constitution, any state constitution or any state or federal law shall be construed to require that marital status or its legal incidents be conferred on unmarried couples or groups.

    Their proposed resolution failed.

    After nearly two hours of empassioned oratory and sometimes heated Council colloquy, the Council voted 4-4 (Kell absent for entire meeting) on a resolution to oppose HJR 56 and SJR 26 (text below).

    Faced with one of the largest Council crowds in recent memory, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill asked that both sides limit their speakers to ten on each side...and advocates pro and con complied.

    Councilmembers Lowenthal, Baker and Reyes Uranga opened...and drew a heated response from Councilman Val Lerch who made a motion to receive and file (i.e. take no action on) their proposed resolution.

    Councilman Baker responded to several points...and added that he would never forgive Councilman Lerch for "the indignation and the assertion that I'm wasting your time by bringing this issue forward..." Councilman Baker made a substitute motion to pass the resolution opposing the proposed constitutional amendment. Later in the meeting, a heated exchange ensued when Councilman Lerch reiterated that he believed the Council shouldn't be debating the issue at this point...and responded to Councilman Baker. "How dare you sit there and attack me personally and say you'll never forgive me for this? How dare you, Mr. Baker?" Councilman Baker shot back, "You know what, Councilmember? You sit there every friggin' week and pull your high and mighty indignation and it's about time you get called on it..."

    The verbal wrestling continued until the Mayor restored calm.

    After Councilman Baker made his substitute motion to adopt the resolution, Vice Mayor Colonna proposed a second substitute motion that the Council support only such constitutional amendments that guarantees the right of all men, women and children to equal protection under the law." He added that in his view, his motion should end the Council discussion until the matter is fully vetted at the Congressional and the state level.

    City Attorney Bob Shannon noted that the two substitute motions were not necessarily inconsistent...and explained that if the Council passed Colonna's motion, Baker's motion wouldn't be dead (meaning the Council would still have to vote on Baker's substitute motion if Baker intended to press it...which he did.)

    Councilwoman Richardson said she would support Colonna's substitute motion if he would accept a friendly amendment to include a proviso not to violate anyone's rights. Colonna agreed and added Richardson's verbiage, resulting in the following: "...that the City Council supports those amendments to our Constitution that guarantee the rights of all men, women and children to equal protection under the law and oppose amendments that would deny equal protection under the law."

    With Councilwoman Jackie Kell absent for the entire meeting, the votes went as follows:

    Vice Mayor Colonna's substitute motion as amended passed 7-1 (Lerch dissenting).

    Councilman Baker's substitute motion -- to pass a resolution opposing the proposed U.S. constitutional amendment -- failed 4-4 (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Carroll, Uranga. No: Colonna, Richardson, Webb, Lerch)

    Councilman Lerch's motion to "receive and file" (take no further action on) the resolution opposing the constitutional amendment passed 5-3 (Yes: Carroll, Colonna, Richardson, Webb, Lerch; No: Lowenthal, Baker, Uranga).

    In their joint memo that originally agendized the item, Councilmembers Baker, Lowenthal and Reyes Uranga wrote:

    As the most diverse large city in the United States, and one that honors that diversity by protecting the dignity of all of its people, we have a responsibility to oppose efforts to deprive any of our citizens the right to live freely.

    Traditionally, our Constitution has been amended to enumerate and expand the rights Americans enjoy. It would be a tragedy to undo this long history by amending our Constitution to limit the rights of a group of Americans, especially as we so recently celebrated the 50" Anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

    Two bills in Congress would change the U.S. Constitution in a way that would move our country away from the ideals established at our founding: that we may all live in a country dedicated to the proposition that all persons are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Recommended Action

    Request the City Attorney to prepare a resolution opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment (H.J.Res.56 & S.J.Res.26)

    The draft resolution attached to the Councilmembers' agendizing memo stated:


    WHEREAS, Long Beach is committed to fair and equitable treatment of all persons and has codified its commitment to non-discriminatory treatment of individuals with the enactment of Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 2.72, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of marital status, sex, gender, and sexual orientation; and

    WHEREAS, Long Beach is committed to protecting the dignity of all people and the encouragement of positive human relations among citizens, groups and institutions and to consider, promote and develop programs for the reduction of tension, conflict, or violence which may arise from intolerance, prejudice and discrimination based upon race, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability through the Human Relations Commission; and

    WHEREAS, the City of Long Beach finds that any attempt to codify discrimination in the United States Constitution runs counter to the tradition of equality that we as a people hold dear, and

    WHEREAS, the United States Constitution serves as the basic contract that has united us as a people and governed the manner in which we live, and

    WHEREAS, both the United States Constitution and California Constitution clearly state that no person within its jurisdiction will be denied equal protection of the laws, and

    WHEREAS, over the course of our Nation’s history, the Constitution of the United States, has been amended to protect the rights of individuals and minority groups from the tyranny of political majorities; and

    WHEREAS, amendments to the Constitution of the United States have steadily expanded notions of full and equal citizenship and have secured civil rights for persons previously denied participation in civil society; and

    WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States and high state courts in Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts have held or intimated that bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional; and

    WHEREAS, in 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States, in unanimously declaring anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, recognized marriage as "one of the ‘basic civil rights of man fundamental to our very existence and survival"; and

    WHEREAS, in this same decision, the Supreme Court stated, "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men"; and

    WHEREAS, denying civil marriage for same-sex couples would deprive gay and lesbian families of the benefits, privileges, protections, and responsibilities provided to opposite- sex couples and their families; and

    WHEREAS, discriminatory marriage laws undermine the constitutional commitment of the United States and the State of California to equality, privacy, and justice for all citizens; and

    WHEREAS, the opportunity to publicly and legally commit to sharing one’s life with a person of one’s choice is one of the most central aspects of human experience; and

    WHEREAS, the denial of marriage to same-sex couples is denial of fundamental human rights;

    Now therefore be it RESOLVED: that the Long Beach City Council hereby urges our United States Senators and Representatives to reject and defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment now being proposed to the Constitution of the United States (H.J.Res.56 & S.J.Res.26) so we may all live in a country dedicated to the proposition that all persons are created equal with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; And be it FURTHER RESOLVED: that the City Council directs the City Clerk to fotward the above positions to our representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

    The text of HJR 56 and SJR 26 is identical:

    108th CONGRESS

    1st Session


    Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

      Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

    `Article --

      `SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.'.

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