TV & Radio
Senate committee revives same-sex marriage bill
Leno uses 'gut and amend' technique to change contents of cohort's fisheries legislation
- Christian Berthelsen, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - San Francisco Chronicle
Sacramento -- A state Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, reviving legislation declared "dead for the year" just last month after it failed to pass out of the lower house.
The effort comes in the face of two previous failed attempts to pass the bill in the Legislature, a voter-approved ballot measure recognizing marriage as between only a man and a woman, and sentiment that the gay marriage movement galvanized support for President Bush in the presidential election last year.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he hoped passage through two Senate committees and the Senate floor would give it the momentum it needed to win approval in the Assembly this summer.
Resuscitation of the bill renewed emotional debate on the most contentious social policy issue in the Capitol this year.
Leno and other legislators who supported the measure say that it ranks as the top civil rights battle of the decade and that recognition of same-sex marriage would correct discriminatory policies in the issuance of marriage license, consideration of tax status, financial and medical benefits, and a range of other issues.
State Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, acknowledged that the majority of voters opposed gay marriage when they approved Proposition 22 five years ago but said: "The people have spoken. They have spoken. But people aren't always right."
Randy Thomasson, the president of the Campaign for Children and Families, the lead opponent of the bill, testified that the Legislature was not the proper venue to legalize same-sex marriage because California voters outlawed it. Rather, he said legalization should be put to voters once more in the form of a ballot measure.
"The courts have already said you cannot create same-sex marriage in this Legislature," he testified. "It must be done by a vote of the people."
The hallway outside the committee hearing room was jammed with hundreds of opponents of the measure. The only other witness to testify against the bill was a woman who said "we are going to see the king of kings and lord of lords" if it is passed.
The woman, who gave her name as Susan Farrell in her testimony but left immediately afterward and could not be interviewed, said she was surprised to talk to the committee as long as she did and feared she would miss getting home in time to make dinner for her husband but that she felt strongly about the issue.
"I'm mommy!" she shrieked. "There's not two mommies to my children!"
Because the Assembly bill failed to pass out of its house of origin by the statutory deadline this year, the legislation was thought to be finished until next year, when new bills can be introduced again. Sen. Carole Migden, D- San Francisco, a supporter of the bill, termed it "dead for the year" when it fell four votes short of the 41 necessary last month.
But through a parliamentary maneuver known as a "gut and amend," Leno borrowed a fellow legislator's bill regarding marine fisheries research that was pending in the Senate, stripped its contents and inserted the language of his failed Assembly bill. The new version is not materially different than the version that died in the Assembly.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 along party lines to pass the bill, with Democrats in favor and the lone Republican who was present opposed. The votes gave it the minimum needed to move on.
Leno said he believed it would garner enough votes in a subsequent Senate hearing and on the Senate floor but acknowledged he still needed to pick up three votes in the Assembly, where it must return and pass before it can be sent to the governor.
Should it get that far, it would present a high-profile and difficult choice for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has presented himself as a social moderate but has also said the courts should decide the issue.
E-mail Christian Berthelsen at email@example.com.
Page B - 1