California assembly opposes constitutional ban on gay marriage

California's state assembly voted Thursday to oppose a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is backed by President Bush, that would ban gay marriage. By a 42-27 vote, the assembly also said it also opposed other federal moves to restrict rights of same sex-couples.

The vote comes in the wake of thousands of gay weddings in recent months in several states, including California, and followed fierce debates Thursday between Democrats and Republicans over the institution of marriage and the role of the U.S. Constitution. Noting that previous constitutional amendments ended slavery and allowed women to vote, Assemblyman Paul Koretz said the Constitution "should not be used in a different way to single out one segment of the population for discrimination."

"When we start outlawing in our Constitution a certain group of people, we have no certainty where it will end," said Assemblyman Mark Leno. "I would like us to think that the California legislature believes in the best of all Americans, in the hope and promise of our democracy and not a limited and small-minded view of what this country can be," said Leno, one of the assembly's four openly gay members and the resolution's author.

The resolution goes now to the state senate, where it must pass by the end of August to become the legislature's official position. It does not need the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said during a March 1 appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno that he had "no use" for the proposed amendment.

Some assembly Republicans called the resolution an attack on California's March 2000 ballot initiative, Proposition 22, in which a two-thirds majority of voters agreed with the measure's definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman. "Marriage between a man and woman is the fundamental building block of our society," said Assemblyman Tim Leslie.

In a related move, the assembly voted 41-31 to pass a companion resolution supporting congressional proposals that would allow gay and lesbian residents to sponsor their partners for U.S. citizenship.

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