California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced that he will veto a bill that would legalise same-sex marriage in the state. This would have seen California become the first state in the United States to do so.

The bill was narrowly passed by both the State Assembly and Senate this week. It then went to the Governor’s office for signature, or in this case, veto.

Schwarzenegger has justified the action by claiming that it goes against the will of the Californian people, as reflected in a referendum ballot held five years ago on the issue of gay marriage. Proposition 22, as approved by voters, restricts the state to only recognising marriage “between a man and a woman”.

The governor’s press secretary, Margita Thompson, said in a statement that, “We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote. Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto.”

While Schwarzenegger has insisted that he supports gay and lesbian rights, he believes that the matter should be decided on by voters or the courts, and not legislators.

Gay rights proponents have reacted strongly against the governor’s announcement, accusing him of being self-serving and solely acting to preserve his political career. It has long been rumoured that Schwarzenegger has ambitions on the US presidency, although this would require a constitutional amendment allowing a foreign born citizen to hold the office.

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