Traditional and Gay Marriage Bills Introduced in California

Two bills presented on the first day of the new legislative session in the California State Legislature are in competition for the future definition of marriage in the state—one would legalize homosexual marriage and the other would elevate the statue defining marriage between a man and a woman to an amendment in the State Constitution.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco filed on Monday the "Marriage License Nondiscrimination Act,” renamed “Religious Freedom and California Civil Marriage Protection Act," which amends the definition of marriage found in the California Family Code to mean "a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between two persons."

The legislation needs 41 votes before it heads from the Assembly over to the California Senate.

Backed by conservative group Traditional Values Coalition, Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, and Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, also on Monday introduced a bill that would codify the “Protection of Marriage Initiative” or Proposition 22 in a similar way many of the 11 states with constitutional marriage amendments on the ballots this fall did when they passed measures that would elevate the Defense of Marriage Act to their state Constitutions. In March 2000, 4.6 million Californians or 61.4 % of voters passed Prop. 22.

"In March of 2000 the people of California overwhelmingly spoke and said they want marriage between one man and one woman," coalition chairman Reverend Lou Sheldon told News 10.

"Attacking marriage and the voters is wrong,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a California-based nonprofit educational organization representing children and families.

Thomasson is also the executive director of Campaign for California Families, a group that earlier this year successfully won a case against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for issuing same-sex marriage licenses despite Prop. 22.

He added, “The Democrat politicians are wrong for pushing their sex-crazed agenda. They're showing how anti-voter they are. Thankfully, average people know how out-of-step San Francisco is with the rest of California."

According to Leno, Prop. 22 only applies to gay couples who married out of state and want their marriages recognized in California but not to gay couples who marry in the state, an argument Thomasson refuted.

"Leno doesn't know what he's talking about,” he said. “The expert attorneys who drafted Prop. 22 made sure that the notion of homosexual 'marriage' was invalid in California, period. The words 'valid or recognized' refer both to marriages performed here or performed out-of-state and recognized here.”

On Tuesday, Thomasson joins Assemblyman Tim Leslie (R-Roseville), Eagle Forum of California President Orlean Koehle, and Art Croney of Responsible Citizens, Inc. in a press conference to speak against Leno’s bill.

Conservatives are also concerned about a Sacramento judge’s ruling, effective on Jan. 1, 2005, that would grant give domestic partners the same benefits as married spouses.

Meanwhile, a case of consolidated challenges against California marriage laws is scheduled for Dec. 22 in San Francisco Superior Court.