Gay marriage issue hits home

Despite some initial reluctance by the Santa Barbara City Council to take the plunge into the national gay marriage debate, on Tuesday night they voted to adopt a resolution expressing opposition to President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting lesbian and gay couples from the right to marry.

“In a nation where it’s legal for Brittney Spears to get married as a joke in Vegas, and when Fox has shows like Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire, we should celebrate anytime two people get together who want to share that love and commitment under the institution of marriage,” said Councilwoman Helene Schneider, who voted 6-0 with her colleagues in favor of the resolution.

Councilman Dr. Dan Secord abstained from voting, having earlier expressed his opinion that the matter was out of the jurisdiction of the City Council.

Mayor Marty Blum initially said she agreed with Secord that the matter was not related to City Council business and suggested that it should be brought instead before the County, which has the authority to issue marriage licenses.

However, later in the discussion Blum said she supported freedom of choice and opposed any attempt to write discrimination into our constitution. “We need more commitments in this world, not less,” she added, eventually supporting the majority.

The issue of taking a stand on gay marriage was brought before the council at the request of the Pacific Pride Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I don’t want this generation to be the first to see an amendment to the constitution that takes rights away,” said Mark Quinn, a board member of GaySantaBarbara.Org who recently married his partner.

We support same sex marriage and equal access, said Linda Tuomi, a board member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

The issue of same-sex marriage sparked national debate after counties in California, Massachusetts and other communities around the country began performing same-sex marriages.

There was also some debate at Tuesday’s meeting. Both Dr. Patricia Stewart, a local dermatologist, and Dave Bramson, who said he represented “the majority of citizens who were at high school graduations and other activities that night” spoke against the resolution.

Bramson said he believed marriage is a “hallowed and very important tradition” and that if people of the same sex are allowed to marry, there is no reason why a brother and sister shouldn’t marry or any other two adults. He asked the council to back off from taking a position.

“It is incumbent upon us to take a stand,” said Councilman Brian Barnwell.

Ultimately the stand the council took was that regardless of a person’s moral position on same-sex marriage, amending the U.S. Constitution is inappropriate.

City Administrator Jim Armstrong said he would bring the final resolution (in the form of a letter) back to the council for approval before it is sent to President Bush and other elected representatives.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

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