By EMMA BROWN
Five years ago almost to the day—Feb. 12, 2004—then-Assemblyman Mark Leno made a move for love. He introduced the California Marriage License Nondiscrimination Act, which defined marriage as a civil contract between “two persons.” The bill passed both houses but died on the Guv’s desk.
Now a state senator—the first openly gay senator in California, matter of fact—Leno is continuing the crusade for marriage equality. Less than a month after voters passed Proposition 8, he introduced a resolution declaring the measure an illegal attempt to revise rather than amend the Constitution. Tom Ammiano, our other guy in Sacramento, introduced a companion resolution in the Assembly, and both have been referred to committees where they will likely languish, at least until after the budget crisis is resolved.
Meanwhile, Leno has been showing up all over town at anti-Prop 8 events, and on Monday the 16th he’ll join Margaret Cho and Star Trekkie George Takei (among others) at a Love & Marriage rally in Sacramento.
The budget problem may last longer than the debate over same-sex marriage, however. Mark’s with the Repubs on one thing—we spend too much money on some things. Namely prisons. In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, he does the math: After accounting for inflation and population growth, we’re spending $3.5 billion more on corrections than we were 10 years ago. Some of that is thanks to our three-strikes law, which puts people away for life even if their third strike isn’t a felony. As a result, we’ve got a lot of aging, expensive convicts to take care of.
But more than that, Leno wishes we would all pony up with a little more cash to save our state from what’s starting to feel like financial apocalypse. Take the cheaper vehicle registration fees we’ve been enjoying since the Terminator took office. We pay about $200 less for each car than we did pre-Arnold. That feels pretty good when you’re standing at the DMV counter, but costs the state more than $6 billion a year, Leno says—a seventh of our $42 billion deficit. Mark is trying to fix the problem by giving counties the power to levy their own vehicle fees—and the greener the car, the smaller the fee—to get more money flowing to strapped local governments.
So if Mark gets his way, we’ll all be paying a little more for the right to drive. But if you’re a woman, you might save a little cash if he wins support for SB 54, which prevents insurance companies from setting gender-related rates. (At the moment, women pay up to 45 percent more for insurance than men of the same age. Not fair!) The bill, whose companion was introduced in the Assembly, has been referred to the Health and Judiciary committees—where they will likely languish until after the budget crisis (alas!) is resolved.