TV & Radio
Bill to legalize gay marriage revived in California
Fri Jul 15, 8:45 PM ET
Steve Saklad (L) and partner of 12 years Paul Hartman look at each other during their 2004 wedding in San Francisco. A legislator's back-door move revived a bill that could make California the second state in the United States to pass a law legalizing gay marriage, officials said(AFP/File/Hector Mata)
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A legislator's back-door move revived a bill that could make California the second state in the United States to legalize gay marriage, officials said.
The move came after an exact replica of the revived bill was defeated by three votes in the legislature of the traditionally trend-setting US state one month ago as the issue of same-sex marriage divides the country.
State Assembly member Mark Leno replaced a colleague's pending bill with gay marriage legislation that had earlier been narrowly defeated in a administrative maneuver referred to as "gut and amend."
The time is ripe to pass the bill -- which if passed would make California the first US state where legislators rather than the courts have legalized gay marriage -- because of political momentum driving the issue, Leno told AFP.
Leno added that he did not want to wait until 2006 to submit the controversial bill to the state legislature because political support for it would be tougher to garner in an election year.
"This is clearly the civil rights issue of the day and it is time for this to happen," Leno said. "We will have a wind at our backs. We are confident we will prevail."
Since the first incarnation of the bill was defeated by three votes in one month ago, gay marriage laws have triumphed with "colorful statements" from politicians in Canada and Spain, Leno stressed.
In addition, religious group the Church of Christ and the United Farm Workers, and the city council of Los Angeles have since voiced support for gay marriages, Leno said.
The eastern state of Massachusetts last year became the first US state to legalize same-sex marriage after its supreme court barred discrimination against same-sex couples.
Since the bill passed out of the state judiciary committee about a week ago, Leno and his allies have been trying to win the backing of politicians who abstained from voting on it the first time around, Leno said.
He predicted the bill would win a vote on the Assembly floor some time in August and then be put on the desk of California's celebrity Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for final approval.
But even if Schwarzenegger signs the bill, that is unlikely to mark the end of the fight for the right of gays and lesbians to marry in California.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are promoting ballot measures that would call on voters to decide whether to unequivocally define legal marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Leno's revival of the bill "is a repulsive attack on voters of California who want marriage protected," according to the Campaign for Children and Families, which has doggedly fought against legalizing gay marriages.
Leaders of the group are urging support of Proposition 22, which would make heterosexual unions the only valid marriages in California.
The proposition promoted by gay marriage opponents "would rip children from the loving arms of legal parents" by retroactively preventing same-sex couples from legally being adoptive or foster parents, Leno said.
"They want to deny a certain group of citizens in California rights and recognition," Leno said of the CCF and its strident president, Randy Thomasson. "Once Californians defeat their ballot initiative, it will be the beginning of the turn of the tide in this country."
If the bill reaches Schwarzenegger and gets his stamp of approval, it would become law on January 1, 2006.