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    News in Depth

    Vice Mayor B. Lowenthal, Councilmembers S. Lowenthal & O'Donnell Seek Resolution Supporting Civil Marriage Licenses For Same Sex Couples

    (October 9, 2006) -- At the October 10 City Council meeting, 1st district Councilmember/Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal, 2nd district Councilmember Suja Lowenthal and 4th district Councilmember Patrick O'Donnell have agendized an item seeking Council support for preparation of a resolution "in support of civil marriage licenses and any enactments which codify civil marriage equality for all couples residing in California who are citizens of the United States and requests our elected representatives in State and Federal government to act with vigor to develop laws to allow marriage equality for same sex couples, defend same sex civil marriages and protect the fundamental liberties of all families."

    The Council action wouldn't carry the force of law...but would put CA's fifth largest city on record on the hot button issue. The last time a somewhat similar issue came to the LB City Council a little over two years ago, an overflow crowd turned out and a passionate debate raged for nearly two hours (details below).

    As background to their current request, Vice Mayor Lowenthal and Councilmembers S Lowenthal and O'Donnell say in their agendizing memo:

    The City of Long Beach is home to more than 80,000 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transvestite (LGBT) residents and families headed by same sex couples, the second largest LGBT community in the State of California (2000 U.S. Census) Like many families that choose to live in Long Beach, same sex couples value our city's commitment to the fair and equitable treatment of all persons regardless of gender or sexual orientation .

    They enjoy being part of the most diverse city in the United States and are proud to have their children enrolled in a nationally recognized school system . LGBT residents and families volunteer thousands of hours each year to their communities, churches, synagogues, schools and civic programs. They participate in the development of our local policies and programs improving the lives of every resident through their hard work and commitment to boards, commissions and elected office.

    In short, same sex couples live, work and play in Long Beach. Unfortunately, LGBT residents are prevented from sharing in every right and liberty promised to us by the United States Constitution and the California Constitution - namely, to receive the same protections as other couples or families under the laws of this land, including spousal rights and legal protection of medical, economic and property interests.

    The inability to access these legal protections has resulted in significant harm to these individuals and their families in the form of financial insecurity, deprivation of real property interests, lack of retirement and death benefits and lack of standing in access to family court for dissolution.

    It is an injustice upon every resident and community in the City of Long Beach when LGBT individuals and families may contribute to the fabric of our city, but not enjoy the liberties and protections provided to all persons regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.


    On June 1, 2004, Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal, Dan Baker and Tonia Reyes Uranga agendized an item to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment in Congress, which proposed to amend the U.S. constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

    The Council Chamber was filled beyond capacity...with overflow directed to the library auditorium. Mayor O'Neill called a ten minute break before embarking on the item. After the proponents presented the item, 9th district Councilman Val Lerch moved swiftly (seconded by then-8th district Councilman Webb) to receive and file (take no action on it).

    Public testimony spanned over an hour. From the City Clerk's minutes:

    .Reverend James Shaw spoke in opposition.
    Trip Hoefield spoke in favor.
    Albert Demalis spoke in opposition.
    Linda Alexander spoke in favor.
    Pastor Michael Elay spoke in opposition.
    Pastor Michael Cole spoke in favor.
    Davey Cop spoke in opposition.
    Elisa Maconahy spoke in favor.
    Pastor Garon Harden spoke in opposition.
    Diana Lejins spoke in favor.
    Joe Esposito spoke in opposition.
    Evan O'Grady spoke in support.
    Pastor David Smith in opposition.
    Whitney Uldman spoke in favor.
    Jillian Eastman spoke in opposition.
    Barbara Smith and Jacob Bedina spoke in favor.
    Johnny Esposito spoke in opposition.
    Joy spoke in favor.
    Pastor John Wilkerson spoke in opposition.
    Julia Curtis Steel spoke in support.

    Following public testimony, substitute motions flew. Councilman Baker moved a substitute (to Lerch's "receive and file"), seconded by Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, to oppose the Federal Marriage Act,

    3rd district Councilman/Vice Mayor Frank Colonna then offered a substitute motion (amended by Councilwoman Richardson below), seconded by Councilman Carroll, for a resolution supporting only those changes or amendments to the U.S. Constitution that guarantee the right of all men, women, and children to equal protection under the law and opposes amendments that would deny equal protection under the law.

    City Attorney Shannon noted that since Colonna's substitute wasn't inconsistent with Baker's motion, Baker was still entitled to an up or down vote on his substitute (to flatly oppose the Federal Marriage Act).

    6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson offered a friendly amendment to the Colonna substitute to support equality for all as long and oppose amendments denying equal rights for anyone.

    The votes came. The Colonna substitute as amended by Richardson passed 7-1 (Yes: B. Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Carroll, Richardson, Reyes Uranga, Webb. No: Lerch. Absent Kell.)

    The Baker-Lowenthal motion opposing Federal Marriage Amendment failed 4-4 [tie fails and resolutions need 5 votes to carry] (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Reyes Uranga, Carroll; No: Colonna, Richardson, Webb, Lerch; Absent: Kell).

    [Lerch's "receive and file" motion, basically moot by the failure of Baker's substitute, passed 5-3 (Lowenthal, Baker, Reyes Uranga dissenting]

    Since that bruising debate, the Council has seen significant changes. Third and Fourth district Councilmembers Colonna and Carroll have been replaced by Councilmembers DeLong and Patrick O'Donnell....and O'Donnell is a co-maker of the now-pending motion.

    5th district Councilwoman Kell (who was absent) has been replaced by Councilwoman Schipske. 8th district Councilman Webb (who advocated receiving and filing the item) has been replaced by Councilwoman Gabelich. Councilman Baker has been succeeded by Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal. Councilwoman Richardson remains...but she is virtually certain on her way to Sacramento as the Democrat candidate in the Democrat-drawn/Democrat voter dominated 55th district Assembly seat.

    The Oct. 10 Council item comes just days after a San Francisco Court of Appeal upheld CA's voter-approved ban on same sex marriage (Prop 22)...which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

    On October 5, the Court of Appeal ruled (2-1) that the "legislature and the voters of this state have determined that 'marriage' in California is an institution reserved for opposite-sex couples, and it makes no difference whether we agree with their reasoning...We may not strike down a law simply because we think it unwise or because we believe there is a fairer way of dealing with the problem." Proponents of same-sex marriage say they will appeal to the CA Supreme Court.

    On March 7, 2000, Prop 22 carried in Long Beach by a 56.8% "yes" to 43.2% "no" margin. In Los Angeles County, it passed with 58.6% voting "yes" and 41.4% voting "no." In Orange County, "yes" votes were 69.2% to 30.8% "no."

    In Sept. 2006, an initiative to repeal Prop 22 and define marriage "as a civil contract between any two persons otherwise qualified to marry, regardless of their gender" failed to qualify for the ballot.

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