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Schwarzenegger's Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage: 'I Don't Care'

The governor's reply to a restaurant patron's question heartens some lawmakers who seek to press the issue.

June 25, 2004|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — If a gay couple want to marry, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's view is simple: He doesn't care.

The Republican governor offered the blunt admission that he had no particular objection to gay marriage while moving between tables at a Romano's Macaroni Grill in Folsom, urging the lunchtime crowd to call their lawmakers and demand that they pass his $103-billion budget.

One of the patrons asked his view on an issue that caused a roiling debate over the winter, when gay couples lined up to marry at San Francisco City Hall. In the past, Schwarzenegger's comments on the subject have been open to interpretation.

His remark Thursday indicated that he had no moral objection to gay marriage -- unlike many among the governor's conservative base.

Schwarzenegger's position also puts him at odds with the White House. President Bush has called for a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage between same-sex couples.

The exchange at the restaurant was with Peter Renfro, 31, a Sacramento Democrat who has a male domestic partner. Renfro asked the governor's opinion on gay marriage.

"My opinion is that I don't care one way or the other," the governor said.

Renfro seemed unsatisfied: "Oh. Without avoiding the question ... "

Schwarzenegger repeated: "No, no, I don't care one way or the other."

Legislators who support gay marriage were heartened by the governor's remark.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) plan to introduce a bill in December that would permit same-sex couples to marry. Schwarzenegger has refused to say whether he would sign such legislation.

Nunez, in an interview Thursday, said, "To me, it's a very positive sign that he's saying that."

Senate President John Burton (D-San Francisco) said the governor's position made sense.

"Why would anybody care," he said, "except the two people getting married or the spurned lover of one of the two people getting married?"

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