TV & Radio
Calif. Gay Marriage Bill To Get Senate Airing
by Mark Worrall 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau
Posted: July 11, 2005 12:01 am ET
(San Francisco, California) Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in California that died last month in the state Assembly will get new life on Tuesday when it goes before a Senate committee.
On June 2, the Assembly defeated the bill by four votes (story) after a quarter of the Democrats in the House voted with Republicans to reject it.
It's author, Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) was undeterred. Leno succeeded in having the legislation attached to a marine bill working its way through the Senate and then back down to the Assembly.
Leno, one of six openly gay members of the Legislature, is hopeful that the measure will pass the Senate where Democrats hold a 25-15 edge over Republicans, putting pressure on the Assembly to follow.
Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, the bill would require local clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but allow people opposed to gay marriage to refuse to conduct weddings.
"I think it's important not to give up because a bill failed by a few votes," Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) another member of the gay caucus, told the Associated Press on the weekend.
"We have always believed it's an equal rights question and a civil rights question," she said. "The Senate has been very good about these issues, but this is something that individual members have not thought about. We'll have to have that discussion."
If the legislation makes it through both houses it would go to the governor's desk before lawmakers wrap up their 2005 session in September.
So far Gov. Schwarzenegger has sent mixed messages about whether he would sign the legislation if it were passed.
In a January meeting with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle Schwarzenegger suggested that this may not be the best time to push gay marriage, saying that a legislative push to fully recognize marriage rights for gays might backfire.
"Eventually in a few years from now, you can readdress it again and see what the people of California think,'' he told the paper. "You cannot force-feed those kind of things.''
Last year in a Tonight Show appearance Schwarzenegger said gay marriage would be "fine with me" if it were enshrined in state law or ruled legal by the courts. (story)
The issue of same-sex marriage also is being waged in the courts. Last week lawyers for gay couples suing the state for the right to marry, and Attorney General Bill Lockyer urged the California Supreme Court to take up the case immediately rather than force the case to work its way up from lower courts. (story)
To further complicate the issue, a conservative group called the "Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative" has begun collecting signatures to have a proposed amendment to the California Constitution banning same-sex marriage placed on the 2006 ballot. (story) If approved by voters it would not only bar gays and lesbians from marrying but also void the state's landmark domestic partner law.
California, US: Supporters hope state Senate will refuel gay marriage drive