Scroll To Top
World

California
assembly votes down gay marriage bill

California
assembly votes down gay marriage bill

Rings_calif_4

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in California failed in the state assembly early Thursday, but supporters indicated they would seek another vote later in the week. The bill, which had been regarded as a historic opportunity by gay rights advocates nationwide, was defeated 37-35. It needed at least 41 votes to pass the 80-member house. Supporters had hoped it would be the first time a legislative chamber in the United States voted voluntarily to put same-sex couples on equal legal footing with heterosexual couples. It took a court order for Massachusetts in May 2004 to become the first state in the country to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. On Wednesday the California assembly measure stalled on its first vote--also 37-35. Its backers then used a parliamentary procedure to keep the measure alive while they worked to round up more votes before the end of the night. But it didn't fare any better on its second go-round. The votes took place after the state attorney general filed a challenge Tuesday to a San Francisco judge's ruling in March that state laws prohibiting gay couples from marrying are unconstitutional. Opponents of marriage equality want to put a constitutional amendment before voters banning same-sex marriage after the Democrat-controlled legislature rejected similar proposed amendments by Republicans. The assembly bill would amend the state family code to define marriage as a union between "two persons" instead of between a man and a woman. The superficially simple semantic change sparked an emotional debate in the assembly over the meaning of marriage and the definition of discrimination. Several of the measure's Republican opponents described the bill as an illegal usurpation of the will of a majority of California voters expressed five years ago when they approved a ballot initiative prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. "If you want to destroy the law, mock it, call it names. If you don't have the courage to go back to the people in the proper way, tell a big lie," said Republican assemblyman Jay La Suer. "This has nothing to do with discrimination. It has everything to do with the destruction of the moral fiber of this nation." Frequent references to the sanctity of male-female marriage provoked a passionate reply from Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who is one of six gay members of the legislature and has been in a relationship with the same woman for 26 years. "You cannot give me, if we are all created equal, an argument that says I cannot marry my partner," Goldberg said. "You cannot tell me there is any definition other than to say I am not really a human being like all the rest of you heterosexual human beings.... Unless you are willing to look me in the face and say I'm not a human being just like you are, you have no right to deny me marriage in the state of California or anywhere else." Backers of the measure have at least one more shot at having it reconsidered before week's end, said Democratic assemblyman Mark Leno, the bill's lead author. If passed, the measure was expected to have an easier time in the state senate, where Democrats hold a 25-15 edge. From there, its fate was unclear. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, has said he thought it should be up to voters or the courts, not lawmakers, to make such a cataclysmic change in social policy, but he has not vowed to veto the bill. While assembly speaker Fabian Nunez made it a high priority for Democrats to get the same-sex marriage bill to Schwarzenegger's desk, predictions on whether it would live or die came down to the wire even though 48 of the assembly's 80 members are Democrats. With a Friday deadline for lawmakers to act on legislation, California's largest gay rights lobbying group, Equality California, scrambled to put together the necessary votes to send the bill to the senate. A dozen Democrats either joined assembly Republicans in voting against the bill or abstained. Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, said he was heartened by the diverse racial, religious, and geographic spectrum represented by the legislators who voted for the bill. But he was also disappointed by the number of Democrats who failed to support the measure, many of whom are being termed out of the assembly and running for other offices next year. "For anyone in that room there were two sides of the debate. Either you are aligning yourself with equality, or you are aligning yourself with people who are on the floor of the assembly calling lesbian and gay people abominations," Kors said. "There is no middle ground. (AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Advocate.com Editors