California's same-sex marriage bill on hold
The California assembly may still vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, it was announced Wednesday, but legislation remains uncertain after the appropriations committee placed the bill on hold for further fiscal review, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The bill would prohibit the denial of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian people in California and expand on the state's domestic-partnership law by allowing same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, claim an exemption from property reassessment upon the death of a partner, and travel across state lines without jeopardizing their marriage rights. Committee chair Judy Chu agreed to review the study--which reports that allowing same-sex couples to marry would boost the state economy by more than $20 million annually--before the May 21 deadline for bills to come off the committee's "suspense" file. Assemblyman Mark Leno, who introduced the legislation, said he doesn't want to take the bill to the floor until he is confident of its success. "To move forward this year without real certainty that we have the vote will not be in our collective interests," Leno told the Chronicle. "Should we not prevail this year, we have an enormously good chance of getting it to the governor's desk next year."
The appropriations committee, which considers the cost of enacting bills, determined in its own analysis that because married couples typically receive tax breaks, this bill would take away money from the state. But researcher Brad Sears, director of a UCLA School of Law think tank, testified that allowing gay people to wed would bring between $22.3 and $25.2 million annually to the state because fewer individuals would be eligible for state benefit programs. Sears said that combined with increases in sales tax from tourism and funds from same-sex wedding ceremonies, same-sex marriage would offset the decrease in income tax revenues. Benjamin Lopez, a lobbyist for Traditional Values Coalition, and other opponents of the bill dismissed the study. "It's a matter of who you're going to believe," he said. "Are you going to believe a professor on a liberal campus who wants this garbage crammed down the throats of Californians?" At the same hearing, the Insurance Equality Act, which would require insurers to treat registered domestic partners equal to spouses when offering or writing coverage, passed the appropriations committee in a 16-5 vote.