The California Assembly’s five-member “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus” introduced a flurry of bills last week that would grant far-reaching rights to homosexuals and transsexuals, grabbing the attention of traditional-family advocates.
The centerpiece is a bill, AB 205, that would give virtually all the rights of marriage to domestic partners, but with fewer legal responsibilities.
“This law would be truly historic for the nation,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of the lobby group California Alliance for Pride and Equality, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “If California passes this, it sends a message to the rest of the nation.”
Opponents, however, call it a ruse for bypassing a ballot measure passed in 2000, Proposition 22, which defined marriage as limited to a man and a woman.
“This is homosexual ‘marriage,’ pure and simple. No one should be fooled,” said Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, a grass-roots action group. “This in-your-face bill would reverse the vote of the people who said they want marriage rights to be for a man and a woman, as it should be.”
The sponsor of the bill, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, admitted that it “gets very close” to the duties and obligations of marriage, the Sacramento Bee said.
More than 61 percent of Californians voted in favor of Proposition 22. In January 2002, “civil union” legislation, similar to Vermont’s, was defeated in the legislature after public opposition.
AB 205, unlike civil unions, would not require a marriage-like ceremony in court, and the relationship could be ended without the same court process as divorce, the Sacramento paper said. Instead, it would expand the state’s existing domestic partnership program, which offers limited legal rights to 18,367 couples registered with the secretary of state.
Goldberg regards her bill and others introduced this week as civil-rights legislation that would ensure basic fairness.
American Civil Liberties Union legislative director Francisco Lobaco called the four-bill package the “key civil-rights legislation facing the legislature this year.”
A bill that would fine business owners up to $150,000 without trial for refusing to hire a transsexual was introduced by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The law would encompass religious businesses and nonprofits such as the Boy Scouts who might refuse a transsexual on moral or religious grounds. Last year, a similar bill by Goldberg died in the state Senate.
Another bill, AB 17, by Assemblywoman Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, would require companies and nonprofit organizations that want to do business with the state to provide benefits to domestic partners equivalent to those offered to married couples. Kehoe introduced a similar bill last year that did not make it through the Assembly.
Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, plans to introduce a bill that would require foster parents to support transsexual, bisexual and homosexual behavior in their own homes.
CCF’s Thomasson argues that with the substantial number of foster parents who are religious, this bill would result in a net loss of foster parents statewide. Last year, a similar bill by Chu was vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis.
“These are intolerant bills that will hurt real people,” said Thomasson. “The victims are the Boy Scouts, the sacred institution of marriage, good-hearted foster parents and conscientious business owners, including owners of family-oriented restaurants and Bible bookstores.
“The gay activists can’t say ‘live and let live’ and then introduce intolerant bills that penalize innocent people and attack the sacred institution of marriage,” he said.
Gov. Davis has a policy of not taking a position on bills until they are in their final form, said spokesman Russell Lopez.