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California
same-sex marriage bill now in governor's hands

California
same-sex marriage bill now in governor's hands

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Gay rights supporters cheered loudly from the California statehouse gallery as lawmakers became the first in the country to approve a same-sex marriage bill, sponsored in the state assembly by San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno (pictured). But their celebration may be short-lived if California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes the measure.

Gay rights supporters cheered loudly from the California statehouse gallery as lawmakers became the first in the country to approve a bill allowing same-sex marriages. But their celebration may be short-lived. The legislation could be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has expressed acceptance of same-sex marriages but said it's an issue that should be decided by voters or the courts. "He will uphold whatever the court decides," spokeswoman Margita Thompson said Tuesday after the state assembly approved the same-sex marriage measure, 41-35. The senate approved the legislation last week. A state appellate court is considering appeals of a lower court ruling that overturned California laws banning recognition of same-sex marriages. And opponents of marriage equality for gays are trying to qualify initiatives for the 2006 ballot that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. The bill's supporters compared the legislation to earlier civil rights campaigns, including efforts to eradicate slavery and give women the right to vote. "Do what we know is in our hearts," said the bill's sponsor in the assembly, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno. "Make sure all California families will have the same protection under the law." "Today in California, love conquered fear, principle conquered politics, and equality conquered injustice," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California. "For the first time in our nation's history, the people's elected representatives have taken a stand to protect all families and ensure equality for all. We are counting on Governor Schwarzenegger to lift the burden of discrimination from hundreds of thousands of California families by becoming the first governor in the nation to sign legislation ending discrimination against same-sex couples obtaining a civil marriage license. His legacy will in large part be based on whether he signs or vetoes this historic civil rights legislation." "Now that the people of California have spoken through their elected representatives, we call on the governor to respect this decision and the legislative process and allow this legislation to become law," added Patrick Guerriero, president of the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans. "Governor Schwarzenegger has been a committed ally of LGBT equality, and we thank him for his support in the fight for basic fairness for our families." But opponents repeatedly cited the public's vote five years ago to approve Proposition 22, which prohibits California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries. "History will record that you betrayed your constituents and their moral and ethical values," Republican assemblyman Jay La Suer said. Leno had sponsored an earlier bill that fell four votes short of passing the assembly in June. He kept the issue alive by adding the language of the defeated measure to another bill that had already passed the assembly and was awaiting action in the senate. The senate approved that bill and sent it back to the assembly for another vote. Four Democrats who didn't vote the last time tipped the scales. One of them, Assemblyman Tom Umberg, said Tuesday that he was concerned about what his three children would think of him if he didn't join those "who sought to take a leadership role in terms of tolerance, equality, and fairness." California already gives same-sex couples many of the rights and duties of marriage if they register with the state as domestic partners. Massachusetts's highest court ruled in November 2003 that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. The nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex weddings began taking place there in May 2004. Vermont began offering civil unions in 2000, after a ruling by the state's supreme court. Earlier this year Connecticut became the first state to approve civil unions without being forced by the courts. "We believe Governor Schwarzenegger values family, and this measure simply provides equal protections and obligations for same-sex couples and their children," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition. "This is one of those rare moments in history when a governor has a true opportunity to...make a legacy-making decision. The question now is...Will he stand for civil rights by signing this historic civil rights legislation, or slam the door to equality in the faces of hundreds of thousands of California families? We join with our partners in California and throughout the country in calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to do the right thing by signing this measure." (AP)

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