Sep 08, 2007
News: California Legislature Passes Equal Marriage Bill
By Danny Sonnenschein
(USA) - For the second time in two years, the California Legislature has passed legislation that would grant same-sex couples the ability to marry. With a 22-15 vote, the Senate on September 7 approved AB 43, authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and sponsored by Equality California. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act is almost identical to the bill the Legislature passed in 2005. California claims the pioneerining status of the only state in the US that has approved marriage for same-sex couples through the legislative process, but has been actually never implemented.
With the work of EQCA’s lobbying efforts, Political Action Committee and grassroots volunteers, AB 43 picked up three new votes in the Senate this year from Senators Ducheny, Padilla and Scott. Senators Ducheny and Scott abstained from voting in 2005. The EQCA PAC played a critical role in the 2006 elections to increase the pro-marriage majority in the Legislature.
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration. The governor Schwarzenegger must take action on all bills by October 14.
"This historic vote shows that support for ending the ban of same-sex couples from marriage is not only holding steady, but growing," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We congratulate Assemblymember Leno for his incredible leadership on this issue and applaud the Legislature for representing the people of California in supporting fairness and equality."
A September 2006 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 47 percent of likely voters in California support marriage for same-sex couples, while 46 percent oppose.
Although California allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners, marriage and domestic partnership remain two separate and unequal institutions. Domestic partnerships do not provide the universal recognition, honor and dignity that come with marriage. They also do not provide federal benefits and essential support systems needed upon illness or disability, in times of crisis and in older age.
"We call on the governor to rise above right-wing ideology, as he has on many other issues, by signing this bill," said Kors. "By a new Legislature passing this bill with an even larger margin than in 2005, our elected representatives have shown that the people of our state strongly support equality and fairness. The governor should keep up with the will of the people and show the kind of bold bi-partisan leadership on this issue that will define his place in history."
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act gives all couples equal access to a marriage license, while also protecting religious freedom. AB 43 reaffirms that no religious institution would be required to solemnize marriages contrary to its fundamental beliefs.
"Two consecutive legislatures have now boldly and proudly affirmed the full, first class, and equal citizenship of all of Californians in loving and committed relationships who want their bond recognized and honored by the state in which they live and to which they contribute," said Assemblymember Leno. "My Senate colleagues recognized what an ever-increasing number of fair-minded Californians also see - that marriage strengthens our society and singling same-sex couples out of this important institution hurts us all," he said.
Some of the top scientific and health organizations in the US have presented peer-reviewed literature and consensus statements supporting the end of excluding same-sex couples from marriage because it hurts Gay people and their families. Health experts and medical organizations agree that treating a certain group of people differently creates social isolation and victimization, perpetuating negative stereotypes and alienating the group from health, family and social support systems. While providing important benefits, domestic partnerships perpetuate this exclusion and its negative consequences.
"Countless California families have gone far too long without the full protections, benefits and respect they were promised when the state’s domestic partnership registry was established," said Kors. "Today the California Legislature has, for the second time, affirmed that domestic partnerships fall short."
AB 43 is co-authored by 29 Assemblymembers and 14 Senators, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Sen. President Pro Tempore Don Perata. A broad coalition of more than 250 civil rights organizations and leaders support the measure, including the NAACP California State Conference, United Farm Workers, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Chinese for Affirmative Action, California Teachers Association, ACLU, California Nurses Association, Lambda Legal, Anti-Defamation League, California National Organization for Women, California Church Impact, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.