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The Heat is On

A brief synopsis of domestic partnership and gay marriage developments nationwide, and locally

THE DOMESTIC PARTNER REGISTRY ISSUE has emerged and spread so quickly that even gay community opinion makers admit to being unprepared to deal with the well-organized backlash. The publisher of a Missouri gay newspaper was quoted in San Jose's OutNOW! as complaining, in early 1995, "I've seen no position papers. I've seen no media talking sheets, no model legislation, no support videos to counter inevitable attack videos. Nothing."

The following is a chronology of some milestones that put the local controversy in context.

May, 1993: Hawaiian Supreme Court overturns a lower court ruling barring same-sex marriage with instructions to show "compelling" cause to ban same-sex marriage. New ruling expected as early as July--or as late as 1998.

Dec. 11, 1995: Palo Alto City Council votes 6-1 to establish a symbolic domestic partners registry.

Jan. 4: Palo Alto Mayor Joe Simitian recommends a county domestic partners registry in a letter to Santa Clara County supervisors. Supervisor Mike Honda, amid accusations of courting the gay vote, proposes a similar registry.

Jan. 18: Palo Alto enacts domestic-partners registry.

Jan. 31: California Assembly votes to approve Assembly Bill 1982 to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages in California, anticipating Hawaii's decision. The bill--generally considered unconstitutional--is stalled in Senate committee and may die there.

Feb. 1: San Jose Unified School District Board votes 3-2 to offer domestic-partners benefits to district employees.

Feb. 23: Republican legislator Pete Knight introduces second bill, Assembly Bill 3227, affirming "compelling state interest" to confine marriage to heterosexuals.

Feb. 25: Pastor Peter Wilkes of South Hills Community Church organizes meeting to rally evangelical Christians to protest school board decision and the county registry.

March 7: Evangelicals pack school board meeting and decry domestic partners benefits proposal.

March 23: The Central Conference of American Rabbis, a Reform group, votes at Philadelphia conference to oppose state bans on same-sex marriages.

March 24: Local evangelicals buy half-page ad in the San Jose Mercury News, written by Peter Wilkes, predicting the decline of the "biological family."

April 1: Gilroy City Council votes 5-2 to recommend against the domestic partners registry for Santa Clara County.

April 8: In an executive committee meeting of the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission, Commissioner Richard Calderón refers to NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association, in a debate about domestic partners. These comments are reported by the gay newspaper OutNow! and the San Jose Mercury News.

April 8: The executive committee of the HRC votes to approve the revised version of the registry in a 3-2 vote, without Calderón's support. Commission sends revised draft to county counsel for study. Further public hearings are delayed until May 28. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will not hear the proposal until August.

April 17: One of the churches signed to the March San Jose Mercury News advertisement, San Jose Christian College, presents a neighborhood expansion proposal to the downtown Campus Community Association, a neighborhood group. Gay neighborhood residents intervene, noting the inclusion of Christian College and Pastor Bryce Jessup in the Merc ad. Activists receive applause from association members.

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From the May 9-15, 1996 issue of Metro

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