Calif. Senate makes history, passes 'gay marriage' bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)--California's Senate Sept. 1 became the first legislative body in U.S. history to pass a bill that would legalize "gay marriage," ignoring conservatives who said the bill defies the will of the citizens and is unconstitutional.

The Senate passed the bill (AB 849) by a margin of 21-15, the minimum votes required for passage. Although legislatures in Vermont and Connecticut previously had passed bills legalizing same-sex civil unions, no body had ever passed a bill that would legalize "gay marriage."

The bill now goes back to the state Assembly, which defeated a "gay marriage" bill earlier this summer on three separate votes. Supporters hope the newfound momentum provides the extra votes it needs to pass the Assembly. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has not said whether he would sign or veto the bill.

The bill would change the definition of marriage in state family code to read "two persons" instead of "a man and a woman."

But even if it is signed into law, it almost certainly would face a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. In 2000 California voters passed an initiative known as Proposition 22 explicitly banning "gay marriage" by a margin of 61-39 percent. California's Constitution prohibits the legislature from overriding a voter-approved initiative.

"Today's action by the 58 percent of California senators who voted in favor of this bill shows they have a reckless disregard for the will of their constituents," Glen Lavy, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, said in a statement. "AB 849 flies in the face of the expressed will of the people of California as expressed at the ballot box."

Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, a Republican, made the same point during floor debate.

"[T]he voters have spoken on this issue," Hollingsworth said. "Sixty one and a half percent said that they wanted to protect marriage between one man and one woman."

Ironically, the bill's passage likely will give marriage amendment supporters a boost. Two pro-family coalitions -- ProtectMarriage.com and VoteYesMarriage.com -- are hoping to gather enough signatures to place an amendment on the ballot in 2006.

The only state to recognize "marriage" between homosexuals is Massachusetts, where it was legalized through a court-order. But homosexual activists are pushing for its legalization in other states, and have filed lawsuits in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Washington and Florida. They hope eventually to win a case before the Supreme Court and have "gay marriage" legalized nationwide.

During floor debate Sen. Tom Torlakson, a Democrat who supported the bill, argued that the institution of marriage had "evolved." Sen. Nell Soto, another Democrat who supported the bill, said people "were put on this earth to love one another, not judge one another."

Sen. Carole Migden, a Democrat from San Francisco who voted for the bill, cited the growing homosexual activist movement before saying, "There is a whole new human family configuration in America and the globe.

But Sen. Tom McClintock, a Republican who voted against the bill, said "gay marriage" legalization would change society for the worse.

"Marriage is the institution that exists in nature by which we propagate our species and inculcate our young with the values and standards and sociological guidance that produces a human society," he said.

McClintock noted that the government bans polygamy.

"Why is that? Why would we interfere with the right of consenting adults to enter into a polygamous relationship?" he asked. "... It's because we recognize the unique strains that such a relationship would produce on that marriage."

Hollingsworth argued that, deep down, every member "know[s] that this is not the right thing to do."

"You have to ask, where does that [conviction] come from?" he asked. "I believe that comes from a higher power who put that knowledge in you. And that higher power is also the higher power that created the institution of marriage."

Marriage, McClintock said, cannot be redefined -- even by politicians.

"It was Lincoln who said that if you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? The answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. And calling a civil contract between consenting adults a marriage does not make it a marriage," McClintock said.


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