Calif. Gay Marriage Bill Passes Committee

A legislative committee approved the new version of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in California, reviving the issue for a second chance at passage.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Leno, the bill would amend California’s definition of marriage and add the words “two persons” in place of a man and a woman.

In an earlier attempt this year, the measure failed to pass the Assembly by four votes. Leno then took another bill written for fisheries research and applied the gut and amend method to create a new gay marriage bill.

Hundreds of supporters and opponents gathered to speak at the hearings on Tuesday. The bill cleared the first hurdle, receiving approval by a 4 to 1 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Another Senate committee may vote on the bill as early as August.

Passage of the bill would mark the first time a state recognized same-sex marriage without a court order. Massachusetts is currently the only state in the U.S. that recognizes same-sex marriage, after a court ruling last year.

Supporters of same-sex marriage claim that it is an issue of civil rights. However, opponents argue that the legislature does not have the right to overturn a law approved by popular vote.

In 2000, voters passed Proposition 22, which essentially bans same-sex marriage in the state. Leno and supporters of the same-sex marriage bill argue that Proposition 22 only applies to marriages from other states.

Karen England of Capitol Resource Institute commented, “We are appalled that the majority of committee members decided to ignore the will of the people they represent. Assemblyman Mark Leno has engaged in some legislative maneuvering to keep the gay marriage bill alive.”

Earlier this year, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ruling is being appealed and has been stayed during the appeals process.

Pro-family groups have responded with their own Voters’ Right to Protect Marriage Initiative to place a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on the next statewide ballot. An attempt to get the proposed constitutional amendment through the legislature failed to pass a legislative committee in May.