Calif. legislative committee passes 'gay marriage' bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)--Ignoring criticism that it is unconstitutional, a California legislative committee has passed a bill legalizing "gay marriage" for the second year in a row -- and this time with promises that it will reach the governor's desk.

The bill passed the state Assembly's judiciary committee on a 6-3 vote April 26, one year after passing the same committee on an 8-3 vote. Each vote was along party lines, with all Democrats supporting the bill and all Republicans opposing it.

It now moves to the appropriations committee.

Bill sponsor Mark Leno, an Assembly Democrat and an open homosexual, says he believes the bill will make it to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk this year. Schwarzenegger has yet to take a position on the bill.

But opponents say the bill is blatantly unconstitutional. In 2000 California voters passed an initiative banning "gay marriage." California's constitution forbids the legislature from repealing a voter-approved initiative.

"I think, frankly, you're in the wrong building," Republican Assemblyman Tom Harman told Leno during the committee hearing. "You should either be in the courts or you should take this back to the people."

The ban on "gay marriage," known as Proposition 22, passed by a margin of 61-39 percent. It states that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Article II, Section 10 of the California constitution says that the legislature "may amend or repeal an initiative statute ... only when approved by the electors."

Leno, though, argues that Proposition 22 only bans recognition of out-of-state "gay marriages." If his bill were to become law, he says, California would recognize in-state "gay marriage" but not those performed in other localities, such as Massachusetts.

"If we really mean liberty and justice for all, I ask you to consider this bill seriously," Leno said during the hearing, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Conservatives, though, say Leno is ignoring the plain meaning of Proposition 22. Referring to the initiative's language, Attorney Glen Lavy of the pro-family legal group Alliance Defense Fund said that "valid" refers to in-state marriage licenses, while "recognized" refers to out-of-state licenses.

"In California, if the people pass an initiative, the legislature cannot trump it. That's in the California constitution," Lavy told Baptist Press in early April.

On April 4 a California appeals court sided with conservatives in the dispute. In a ruling upholding the state's domestic partnership law, the court ruled that "gay marriage" could not be legalized without the public's approval.

"Without submitting the matter to the voters, the Legislature cannot change this absolute refusal to recognize marriages between persons of the same sex," the three-judge panel, seated in Sacramento, wrote.

Meanwhile, pro-family leaders in California say they will soon begin gathering signatures with the goal of placing a constitutional amendment banning "gay marriage" before California voters in 2006. The amendment would trump any bill or court ruling.

Appearing before the judiciary committee, Randy Thomasson of Campaign for Children and Families said the legislature had no authority to pass the bill in light of Proposition 22, the California constitution and the appeals court ruling.

"When you consider all of these valid and superior authorities, it is arrogant to push forward this bill," he said. "Arrogance is defined in the dictionary as ‘unwarranted superiority.' This legislature is not superior to the voters, cannot trash the voters, cannot reject marriage and cannot burn up a section of the constitution."

When the bill passed the judiciary committee last year it was the first time in U.S. history a "gay marriage" bill had passed a state legislative committee.

A lawsuit seeking "gay marriage" legalization is making its way through the California state courts. In March a lower court judge ruled that Proposition 22 violated the California constitution. The ruling is being appealed.

California is one of eight states nationwide involved in "gay marriage" lawsuits. Pro-family leaders say the lawsuits point to the need for a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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