Debate over a
bill that would let registered domestic partners in
California file joint state tax returns devolved into a
shouting match as state lawmakers in Sacramento
accused each other of intolerance and one Republican
said his gay colleagues live a deviant lifestyle. Discussion
of the bill Wednesday began to heat up when Republican
assemblyman Jay La Suer called the measure "part of
the homosexual agenda." He said it would negatively
affect California's children by teaching them "that
this is an acceptable lifestyle."
Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, a Democrat, countered
that "the real homosexual agenda is simple equality
and freedom from discrimination." He said the bill
would move California closer to that goal.
Existing state law allows married couples to
file joint or separate tax returns. The bill,
sponsored by state senator Carole Migden, a Democrat
who is one of six openly gay members of the legislature,
would extend that same right to registered domestic partners.
California bans same-sex marriage but allows
same-sex couples to register domestic
partnerships, state-recognized unions conferring
most of the same state-level legal rights as marriage,
such as access to family benefits at work and the ability to
adopt children as a couple. The debate took a personal turn
when Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Democrat, said
she felt personally offended by La Suer's remarks,
telling him he was "castigating me and mine."
After La Suer argued that he had every right to
disagree with Goldberg's lifestyle, efforts to bring
the discussion back to the specifics of the bill were
thwarted by an outburst from Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, a
Republican. "What you seek in society is acceptance," he
said to Goldberg, addressing his comments to her and
the other two openly gay members of the assembly. "But
your lifestyle is abnormal. It is sexually deviant."
The Democrats immediately broke for a caucus
meeting, an apparent effort to cool the rhetoric. When
the session resumed, Mountjoy apologized if he had
personally offended anyone, saying his remarks were an
effort to defend his values and principles.
The bill, which had previously passed the state
senate, later was approved by a 44-28 vote,
largely along party lines. It now returns to the
senate for a final vote.
Migden's bill was one of several gay rights
measures getting attention Wednesday. The other bills
are designed to promote tolerance and to prohibit
discrimination against or negative portrayals of gay people,
bisexuals, and transsexuals within public schools and
organizations that receive government funding.
James Dobson, chairman of the conservative
Christian group Focus on the Family, urged listeners
of his daily radio broadcast to call and e-mail Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger demanding a veto of four other bills
that relate to gay and lesbian issues. Dobson
described those bills as having the potential to
prohibit critical or biblically based discussion of
homosexuality in various parts of the public sector.
"If these bills are signed into law, who knows
what the liberal courts in California will be able to
make out of this in the years to come?" Dobson said in
a statement. "There goes the next generation of
children straight into the arms of the homosexual activist community."
A spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, Margita
Thompson, said the governor signs and vetoes
legislation "based on what is in the best interest of
Californians. The governor believes all Californians are
entitled to full protection under the law." (AP)