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senate OK's same-sex marriage bill

California
senate OK's same-sex marriage bill

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By a strong 22-15 vote, the California senate on Friday sent a marriage equality bill to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pledged this year that he would veto such legislation. The bill passed the state assembly in June with one vote to spare.

By a strong 22-15 vote, the California senate on Friday sent a marriage equality bill to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pledged this year that he would veto such legislation. The bill passed the state assembly in June with one vote to spare.

This is the second time in just under two years that the California legislature has passed a bill that opens the doors to legal marriage for all couples, gay or straight.

Schwarzenegger vetoed the first effort in 2005, citing the results of a 2000 California voter referendum on marriage. At that time, Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, said that the definition of marriage in the state should be determined by the voters or the state supreme court.

This time around, the governor's spokesman, Aaron McLear, says that while the governor has not taken a flat position, he still intends to respect the results of the 2000 referendum, the Associated Press reported. In that vote, roughly 60% of the electorate voted to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages from out of state.

In February, when the marriage bill once again loomed on the horizon, Schwarzenegger pledged a veto "because the people of California have voted on that issue."

The passage of the marriage bill in 2005 was a historic breakthrough, the first time any state legislature had voted for marriage equality.

California now doubles up on its gay rights legacy, even as the California supreme court prepares to weigh in on the issue in a long-running court battle stemming from San Francisco's spate of same-sex marriages.

The high court will be accepting written briefs on six consolidated marriage cases through mid-October, at which point the justices will set a date for oral arguments. Schwarzenegger, in turn, has until October 14 to veto the current legislation.

Given the supreme court's active involvement in the question of marriage rights, Schwarzenegger is even less likely to interfere with the deliberations by signing a marriage bill into law at this point.

Nonetheless, activists are not throwing in the towel. In a statement Friday, the Human Rights Campaign called on Schwarzenegger "to think about how the history books will remember this decision." Schwarzenegger, said HRC's Joe Solmonese, "has an opportunity before him to be remembered as a courageous governor who stood up for equal treatment under the law for all families."

Equality California's Geoff Kors urged Schwarzenegger to "rise above right-wing ideology, as he has on many other issues, by signing this bill." The governor, he continued, "should keep up with the will of the people and show the kind of bold bipartisan leadership on this issue that will define his place in history."

Even if the bill is vetoed, its passage sends a powerful message to the California justices, demonstrating that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would not be a lonely stand for constitutional principles but a reflection of the state's political consensus. (Ann Rostow, Gay.com)

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