A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in California was defeated in the third and final vote in the Assembly late Thursday, killing any chance for such a bill to be placed on the state's ballot.
In the first two votes starting late Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled Assembly fell six votes short of the 41 votes needed for a majority backing. The bill was backed by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, who is openly gay.
According to the Associated Press, Leno lobbied intensely thorughout the day, but picked up only two additional votes for the measure.
The last vote was cast on Thursday night - a day ahead of the Friday deadline to pass. The vote was 37-36 -- four votes short of passing.
The issue of same-sex marriage has been an ongoing source of controversy in California in recent years.
In 2000, voters passed Proposition 22, the Protection of Marriage Initiative that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In March 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Just this week, State Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed an appeal on Kramers ruling, which has been stayed during the appeals process.
In May, a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state failed to pass the legislative committee. In response, pro-family groups joined together to launch VoteYesMarriage.com. The group filed the Voters Right to Protect Marriage Initiative on May 19, seeking to put the constitutional amendment on the next statewide ballot.
Randy Thomasson, President of Campaign for Children and Families and one of the organizers of VoteYesMarriage.com, commented on the need for a constitutional marriage amendment in California.
The Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative will provide true protection to marriage for a man and a woman, recognizing it as a very special institution that deserves the highest honor," said Thomasson.
Thomasson stated that the initiative will reaffirm the will of California voters for the protection of marriage by giving strength to the language of Proposition 22.
The only way to save marriage for a man and a woman is to give it rock-solid protection in the state constitution, said Thomasson.
Gay-rights groups responded to the initiative and announced a campaign to raise a million dollars to fight the proposed marriage amendment.
As in many states, the issue of same-sex marriage continues to spark debate. So far, only Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage and Vermont and Connecticut recognize civil unions.