The California Senate passed a bill Monday that allows all heterosexual couples over 18 years of age to apply for domestic partnerships, which would give them the same rights and benefits as married couples.
Senate Bill 11 (SB 11) was passed 22-13, with votes running strictly along Democrat-Republican party lines. The bill was created by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) as a way to compliment another bill she had passed into law in 1999 granting same-sex civil unions, which granted homosexuals equal marriage rights.
The openly lesbian senator expressed that if same-sex couples receive marriage rights, so should heterosexual ones.
"There are over 4 million unmarried couples within the United States who for many different reasons choose not to get married," explained Migden on the Senate floor. "SB 11 is an equity measure recognizing the diversity of family structures and the needs of unmarried people, including people who choose not to marry, cannot marry, or live together before marriage."
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, four out of ten babies that are born in the United States are from couples that are not married.
"It seems to me entirely fair that this Legislature respond to the emerging new definition of marriage and family," added Migden.
Several conservative groups have voiced their discontent with the senate's decision, however, asserting that the new law encourages the further breakdown of traditional marriage. Opponents expressed the importance of marriage when a child is involved.
"If SB 11 becomes the law, marriage will be functionally abolished," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a California pro-family group, in a statement. "Awarding marriage rights to people who shack up but refuse to get married is completely ridiculous. Why get married if you can get all the legal rights and benefits of marriage without being committed? This bad bill severely weakens the institution of marriage and will motivate unwed parents to remain uncommitted."
Those against the bill were also frustrated that no Republicans took the floor to speak out against the bill.
SB 11 will now go onto the Assembly, where it will be voted on again to be passed into law. Should it pass, conservative groups are asking for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not taken a position yet, to veto it.
"We call upon Governor Schwarzenegger to veto this nonsensical bill that robs marriage of its uniqueness and honor," added Thomasson. "No one should get marriage rights unless they get married. SB 11 makes a mockery of this sacred institution."
Pro-family groups are also worried about another bill brought up in the Assembly, AB 43, which will be voted on in future and would allow the creation of same-sex "marriage" licenses.
Created by openly gay assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the bill would go against Proposition 22, also called the "Protection of Marriage" ballot, that was passed in 2000 by voters and defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Schwarzenegger has promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, however.
According to CCF, AB 43 would also go against the California constitution which says that legislature cannot repeal voter-approved initiatives, such as Proposition 22.