An East/West Divide on Gay Marriage

AMERICAN CANYON — Although it’s just a few miles from San
Francisco — arguably the epicenter of the marriage equality movement
in California — a majority of City Council members in the Napa County
town of American Canyon voted this week to reject a resolution supporting gay marriage.

Calling it an “abuse” of the council’s authority, City Councilman
Ed West successfully moved to table the resolution in support of
marriage equality proposed by colleague Joan Bennett.

“It does not belong before us,” West said, as reported by the Napa Valley Register
on Wednesday. West noted that a majority of voting residents of the
suburban berg voted for Prop. 8 — the successful ballot measure that
banned gay marriage in California — during last November’s general
election.

West moved that the non-binding resolution of support be “tabled”
from any further council consideration. Joining him were council
members Don Callison and Cindy Coffey.

The decision to kill the resolution may follow a larger demographic
trend showing that California is truly a “blue and red” state
politically. Voting trends from last fall’s election showed that away
from the state’s dense urban centers and its coastal strip areas,
voters seem to be more conservative in nature. American Canyon, a town
of about 16,000 residents, sits near Interstate 80 just south of Napa
County’s world famous vineyards.

The Register noted that the city is the fourth in Napa County to
address the issue this spring and that the city councils in Yountville
and St. Helena approved civil rights measures that endorsed rights of
all people to marry. The city of Napa, and now American Canyon, have
declined to take an up-or-down vote on the issue.

Leon Garcia, the city’s mayor, seconded Bennett’s resolution,
calling it a matter of social justice. Bennett said she proposed the
resolution because she believes the law should not bar gay couples from
being able to marry. before West moved to table the matter. “These
should be individual choices,” she said during the meeting.

Interestingly, while more American Canyon voters supported Prop. 8
than oppose it, a majority of Napa County voters cast ballots against
the controversial initiative last fall.

The council’s decision seems to run astray of a greater national
trend on gay marriage. On Wednesday, Maine became the fifth state in
the nation to legalize gay marriage, following Iowa, Connecticut,
Vermont and Massachusetts.

That trend, according to this Los Angeles Times report, may spark marriage equality advocates to try and overturn Prop. 8 with another ballot measure as early as next year.

“There is no doubt we are witnessing an enormous
and unprecedented sea change in both public opinion and momentum on the
issue of marriage equality,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the
National Center for Lesbian Rights told The Times. “I believe the
electorate nationally and in California is in a different place when it
comes to marriage equality than it was six months ago.”

But Frank Schubert, the prime of architect of last fall’s “Yes on 8” campaign, disagreed.

“There’s no doubt the other side is going to try
to make great hay out of Iowa and Maine . . . but none of those places
are California. And California voters have now twice voted on this,” he
said in the Times report. “What part of ‘No’ don’t they understand?”

Follow Jeff Mitchell’s political journalism at BAPolitix.org