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Same-sex marriage bill clears committee
Revived measure removes gender from legal definition
Lynda Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Friday, August 26, 2005
Sacramento -- A revived bill to allow same-sex marriage is headed for the Senate floor early next week after clearing the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he is confident of passage in the Senate before the bill moves to the Assembly, where it was defeated once this year already.
"No legislative body has ever passed such a measure. It would be historic, " Leno said.
AB849 would make marriage as defined by law gender neutral by taking out the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The committee approved the measure 7 to 4, with Sen. Dean Florez, D- Shafter (Kern County), joining the three Republicans on the committee in opposing the bill.
Leno's bill fell four votes short in the Assembly in June, as some moderate Democrats refused to support it. Leno said he believes there have been significant developments since then, including a recent court ruling giving gay and lesbian parents equal custodial rights.
"They are considered no different than married couples with regards to responsibility for children," said Leno, who added that he hopes to see the bill back in the Assembly before the end of next week.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill.
"We call upon Gov. Schwarzenegger to announce that he will veto this anti- marriage, anti-voter bill," said Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families. "It's high time for the 'Terminator' to tell California families where he stands on AB849."
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Calif. Gay Marriage Bill Heads To Senate For Vote
by Mark Worrall 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau
Posted: August 26, 2005 8:00 am ET
(Sacramento, California) Legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in California passed its last hurdle Thursday evening and now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote - likely early next week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure by openly gay Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) On a 7 - 6 vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved it last month. (story)
The marriage bill was considered all but dead this spring when it was defeated by four votes in the Assembly (story) after a quarter of the Democrats in the House voted with Republicans to reject it.
But Leno was undeterred and succeeded in having the legislation attached to a Senate marine bill. If it passes in the full Senate, the measure would then return to the Assembly, as part of the marine legislation.
"Allowing same sex couples to access one another's health care plans, make joint medical decisions, inherit one another's property, file joint tax returns, and provide for their children without fear of them falling into foster care should one partner pass away is not only humane but fiscally prudent," said Leno, one of six openly gay members of the Legislature.
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.
So far Gov. Schwarzenegger has sent mixed messages about whether he would sign the legislation if it were passed.
"Equal marriage rights will bring a much needed lifeline to our state economy," said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California.
"At a time when our state is unable to fully fund education, health care or sustain a balanced budget, we simply cannot afford the financial costs - let alone the moral costs - of discrimination in our civil marriage laws.
According to a study co-authored by the Williams Project, a think tank at UCLA School of Law, and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Same-sex marriage would have a significant positive impact on California's state budget - a potential gain of up to $30 million each year. The study also found that California would benefit from a boom in tourism.
The study concludes that if marriage licenses were permanently offered, each year California would benefit from over $100 million in increased business revenues - generating over $7 million in sales tax revenues for the state.
The issue of same-sex marriage also is being waged in the courts.
In March, a San Francisco a judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for the state to deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples. (story)
Attorney General Bill Lockyer has appealed the ruling. Earlier this month the California Supreme Court declined to fast track the case. (story)
Both Lockyer and The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal had petitioned the Supreme Court to bypass the appeals courts and hear the case now. Once the appeals process is exhausted the case will likely end up in the high court in about a year.
By that time voters are likely to have weighed in on same-sex marriage. 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.