Gay Marriage: Courts or the Ballot Box? 

An internal gay-rights squabble could determine the fate of same-sex nuptials. Plus, Dem leader plans to sue Schwarzenegger.

When the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 earlier this year, the main question for gay-rights activists was whether they would fight for same-sex marriage in court or at the ballot box. A lesbian couple from Berkeley struck first when they filed suit in federal court, seeking to not only overturn Prop. 8, but to legalize gay marriage throughout the nation. But then prominent gay-rights groups immediately criticized the move, arguing that the US Supreme Court was not ready to recognize same-sex nuptials and that it would be better to put a measure on the 2010 or 2012 state ballot. We should know soon which path looks the most promising as the squabble within the gay-rights movement plays itself out.

On one side, the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are convinced that their gay-rights comrades are attempting to sabotage their case so that they can seek a political resolution instead. Late last week, the plaintiffs asked a federal judge to block other gay-rights groups from intervening in the case, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The plaintiffs believe that other groups will purposely bog down the case while campaigning for a ballot measure. In a legal filing, thet wrote: "Having declined to bring their own federal challenge to Prop. 8," the other gay-rights groups "should not be able to usurp plaintiffs' lawsuit."

As for a ballot measure, gay-rights advocates may decide this week whether to launch an initiative drive for next year's election or wait until 2012. The advantage of waiting is that Barack Obama likely will seek reelection three years from now, and will draw millions of liberals and progressives to the polls. On the other hand, the federal legal challenge may be resolved by 2012 — and if it loses in court again, it could sour the public on the gay-marriage cause.

By contrast, Californians appear to be ready to support same-sex nuptials now. According to a Field Poll released last week, state residents' support gay marriage by five percentage points, 49 percent to 44 percent, the Chronicle reported. That's a turnaround from last November when Prop. 8 won 52 percent to 48 percent. Prop. 8 opponents likely will decide this week whether to go for the 2010 or 2012 election. Organizers need to gather about 1 million signatures to qualify for the ballot and the Secretary of State's Office wants them to submit their ballot measure by September 25 if they are to be on the November 2010 ballot.

Dem Leader to Sue Schwarzenegger

Speaking of lawsuits, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg plans to sue Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for making nearly $500 million in last-minute cuts to the state budget, according to the Chron. The governor's cuts could harm social and health programs for the poor and lead to the closure of up to 100 state parks. Steinberg also said the cuts would upset the state government's balance of power. At issue is whether the governor has the authority to use his line-item-veto to cut programs already slashed by the Legislature or whether he can only cut new spending. The state's Legislative counsel said last week that the cuts were illegal, while the governor maintains he did nothing wrong.

But the Legislature has its own explaining to do. According to the Chron, legislators went on a hiring binge earlier this year, adding 336 employees to their offices even as they were lecturing other agencies about the need for belt-tightening during the downturn.

Among our favorite nuggets: Four employees were hired to staff the Assembly's Select Committee on K-16 Articulation, Access and Affordability. The only problem? The committee has yet to hold a public hearing this year. Plus, there were the two staffers — with annual salaries of $85,416 and $46,500 — and the two $1,500-a-month interns who were hired for the Select Committee on Air Quality. And you guessed it. That committee also has yet to hold a hearing.

A New Operator for the Parkway?

In Oakland, it looks like an effort to reopen the beloved Parkway movie theater has changed course. A group of Midwestern investors known as Motion Picture Heritage Corporation, has backed out of the deal, according to former Parkway programmer and host Will Viharo, who represented the Midwestern group in talks with the city. However, a new possible operator has emerged — Mark Haskett, former operator of Alameda's Central Cinema, which was loosely modeled on the Parkway with couches and a casual atmosphere, but was forced to close shortly after the opening of the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex in May 2008. According Viharo, Haskett would operate the theater half of the former Parkway and a separate business would operate the restaurant.

Three-Dot Roundup

As student fees skyrocket and UC employees brace for layoffs and pay cuts, the governing Board of Regents awarded pay raises and lucrative financial perks to highly paid executives, the Chron reported. ... An Oakland cop shot and killed an axe-wielding East Oakland man inside a liquor store, but store clerks and the dead man's family members questioned the shooting. ... Oakland cops also were caught on tape Tasering an allegedly drunken and uncooperative A's fan during a ballgame last week. ... The national unemployment rate dipped slightly to 9.4 percent in July, the first drop in fifteen months. ... And Bill Clinton helped free two Bay Area TV journalists during a secret trip to North Korea.

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