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considers legalizing same-sex marriage

considers legalizing same-sex marriage


The quest for legalization is renewed by a senate committee, having originally failed in the state assembly.

The quest to legalize same-sex marriage was revived by a California senate committee that approved the measure, which was slipped into a fisheries research bill after it failed in the state assembly. The senate judiciary committee voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of the bill, which mirrors one that fell four votes shy in June in the assembly. The measure, by assemblyman Mark Leno, one of six out gay members of the legislature, would make California's marriage laws gender-neutral. Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who stated she was speaking in support of the bill as a lesbian and not as a senator, says the bill reflects the civil rights issue of the day. "Our community is in the middle of the griddle, and I'm proud of it," Kuehl said. An opponent of the measure, Randy Thomasson, who has proposed a constitutional amendment for next year's ballot that would outlaw gay marriage and remove most of the benefits of domestic partnerships, says the bill smacks of an abuse of process. "This is really a no-brainer," Thomasson testified. "It's sad when it was defeated in one house and was reincarnated here." Leno was able to keep the issue alive by persuading another lawmaker to let him gut and amend a bill that passed the assembly that aimed to collect information from fisherman. He replaced it with the language from his same-sex marriage bill. He defended the move by saying his bill had already passed assembly committees and would now face public votes in the senate. "I understand there is at times a nefarious reputation to the gut-and-amend process," Leno said. "That is, rightfully, when it is used at the end of the session, sometimes in the dark of the night, when public hearings are short-circuited. Nothing could be further from the truth with this bill." Leno's bill would amend the state family code to define marriage as a union between "two persons" instead of between a man and a woman. It faces a vote in another senate committee as soon as next month. If the full senate passes the bill, it would be the first legislative body in the nation to approve a same-sex marriage bill. It took a court order in 2004 for Massachusetts to become the first state in the nation to legalize marriage between two people of the same gender. Leno said he still would need to round up three votes in the assembly if it makes it through the senate. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, has not taken a stand on the bill but has said voters or judges, not lawmakers, should make such social changes. Republican opponents have argued that the issue was decided five years ago by state voters who approved a ballot initiative prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. However, a state judge in San Francisco ruled in March that state laws prohibiting gay couples from marrying are unconstitutional; the issue is likely to end up before the California supreme court in the next year. While representatives of several civil rights groups spoke in favor of the bill, hundreds of opponents crowded into a capitol hallway waiting for their turn to speak against it. Scores of the bill's foes, many from the Russian and Ukrainian communities in the Sacramento metropolitan area, added their voices in opposition, including one man who addressed the committee entirely in his native tongue. (AP)

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