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Related Categories: North Bay / Marin | LGBTI / Queer
Sebastopol supports gay marriage
by Lori A. Carter for Press Democrat
Thursday Mar 18th, 2004 12:32 AM
Resolution urging recognition of same-sex unions first in Sonoma County
Sebastopol supports gay marriage

Resolution urging recognition of same-sex unions first in Sonoma County
March 17, 2004


By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT


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Declaring enthusiastic support for same-sex couples, the Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday became Sonoma County's first city to officially endorse gay marriage.


To applause, cheers and whoops from an overflow crowd of more than 150 people, the council unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Sonoma County clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and asking the Board of Supervisors to support civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples.


The resolution also states Sebastopol's opposition to a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, calling it "discriminatory against gay and lesbian families."


Though Sebastopol's resolution is symbolic, council members and several of the nearly three dozen speakers called it an important contribution to a national debate playing out from California to Massachusetts.


"This nation was founded on law-breakers," said Councilman Larry Robinson, responding to the comments of a few residents who opposed the resolution on grounds that it is against state law. "Supporting love in all of its forms, in all of its expressions, is what we have to choose."


Of those in the audience, the vast majority encouraged the council to support gay marriage. A handful of attendees spoke in opposition, some calling gay relationships immoral.


"By God, if families are not protected, this nation will be destroyed," said Roy Lamoreaux of Rohnert Park.


"Don't ever think we don't have children," countered Jill Nelson, a minister at New Hope Metropolitan Community Church in Guerneville, who has a 9-month-old daughter with her partner yet no legal parental rights. "Don't ever think this isn't about families."


Several recently married lesbians said it was important to feel that their love is validated, though many have been with their partners for years. Other speakers talked just as passionately about wanting to be able to teach their children laws must be obeyed, even if you disagree with them.


"I have a simple solution," said Diane Giles of Santa Rosa, who came with her partner of 41 years, Anne Giles. "If you are opposed to homosexual marriages, for heaven's sake, don't marry a homosexual."


Sebastopol's resolution isn't binding on County Clerk Eeve Lewis, who is independently elected and isn't beholden to city councils or the Board of Supervisors. The clerk's office is the only county entity that can issue marriage licenses.


The resolution uses language similar to what San Francisco included in its legal argument that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the state constitution's equal protection clause.


Lewis has maintained that, constitutional issues notwithstanding, existing law restricts marriage to a man and a woman, and that she will abide by that until the law is changed or a court issues a binding decision otherwise.


Mike Reilly, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he supports equal rights for same-sex couples and will bring Sebastopol's request to the board for consideration.


After the 4-0 vote, with Councilman Bob Anderson absent, Sebastopol Mayor Linda Kelley, who proposed the resolution, said she would like the city to adopt further-reaching policies modeled after those in San Jose and Seattle.


Since last year, Sebastopol has offered domestic partner health benefits to same-sex couples older than 18 and opposite-sex couples older than 62.


Kelley asked the city staff to prepare a resolution or ordinance that would require Sebastopol to recognize gay marriages conducted in other jurisdictions and offer city retirement benefits to employees' new spouses; to require contractors doing business with the city to recognize those marriages and offer benefits; and to require contractors to offer benefits to unmarried domestic partners.


Vermont is the only state that currently recognizes civil unions. California grants some rights to same-sex couples registered as domestic partners. So do some cities in Hawaii and New Jersey.


Some private employers and cities provide health benefits to same-sex partners.


Last week, San Jose agreed to extend full spousal benefits to same-sex city employees who got married in San Francisco.


You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 521-5205 or carter [at] pressdemocrat.com.
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
just a reprint?????Friday Mar 19th, 2004 10:02 PM
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