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Governor Signs Gay Rights Bills

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GLORIA PENNER: Another topic in the news this week was the fiery reaction from Prop 8 supporters to two gay rights bills signed by the governor. One bill recognized May 22 as Harvey Milk Day, in honor of the nation's first openly-gay elected official. The other bill involves state recognition of some out-of-state gay marriages. We asked local civil rights attorney Matt Stevens what this bill means for same-sex couples in California, and here is what he had to say. MATT STEVENS: What it specifically means for folks who might care to get married is, if you're married outside of California, you're marriage will still be valid and recognized here in California without the word 'marriage' attached to it. So, it provides a safety net of recognition. I think some couples will go to Iowa, for example, get married, and then that marriage would be recognized in California. Frankly, I think that's appropriate. The State Supreme Court had previously said that same-sex couples are entitled to strict-scrutiny protection. And that failing to give same-sex couples the marriage right, that fundamental interest was being denied. So now, it's the same-sex couple who is being inconvenienced having to exercise this option to get recognition in their own home state PENNER: As you can see, there are strong opinions on either side. What's behind the governor signing these gay rights bills now? TOM YORK: Well, I don't know if I can get into the governor's mind, but I think he changed his mind, I think he vetoed a bill similar to this last year, but I think his vacillation reflects are larger issue, a societal issue. You know, we are going through a convulsion here; we're trying to bring equal rights to a community that which has not had full equal rights. I'm not up on the iterations of all the bills, the this-and-that. But you know the civil rights movement took 25 years from the end of World War II until about 1970 to sort of carry its course. Today, we don't even think about giving equal rights to people of color, I think the same thing is going to have to happen. It's going to have to be a 25 year revolution before accept gays in all areas, including marriage. In fact, if you go to the younger generation, the twenty-something, the teenagers, it's not an issue for them. So, maybe it's a generational thing. Maybe the older generation will have to move out of the way before everyone accepts everyone in our society. PENNER: Well, Prop 8 that was passed last year by the voters in California basically said same-sex marriage is not legal and it was upheld by the California State Supreme Court. So maybe California is lagging behind a little bit in this. YORK: Well, I think California has an element -well I shouldn't say an element- a population that's very conservative. You know, it's church-going, it believes in sort of the traditional values of that whole area and that's going to change. That group is going to grow older, they're going to go off to maybe other states and we are going to see this new generation take over and they are going to bring a wholesale change to our political structure. PENNER: Represented by perhaps President Obama. He said he wants to see the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' in the military eliminated. TOM YORK: I think President Obama is on the leading edge of this change that I'm talking about. I think he was put into office by people who want change, they want to see change carried out in our society and I think marriage to the gays is part of that phenomena. PENNER: But it's going to be a struggle, isn't it? YORK: It is going to be a struggle, because there are a lot of people that resist it. PENNER: Yes, at this point anyway. And now the Prop 8 is in the federal courts. That could make a difference. YORK: Right, possibly Prop 8 could be overturned and we could go back to where it was before that, which is gays being allowed to have all the full rights of being married. I think whether the Supreme Court rules or doesn't rule –there is a wave coming- it's going to change no matter what the courts say or what the voters say. The change is going to arrive. It might just take some years to get here. PENNER: Well, thank you for your opinion.