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A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in California passed its first legislative hurdle with approval by the Assembly Judiciary Committee today.

AB 1967, introduced by homosexual Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, would change the definition of marriage in the Family Code from “a man and a woman” to “two persons.”

The committee vote was split along party lines, with the eight Democrats voting in favor and the 3 Republicans opposed.

“We are shocked and appalled that the majority of committee members decided to ignore the will of the people they represent,” said Karen England of the Sacramento-based Capitol Resource Institute. “The people of California overwhelmingly voted in Proposition 22 that marriage in California is between one man and one woman only.”

Last year, California passed a domestic partner law giving same-sex couples virtually all the rights of marriage without using the term. But Leno’s bill would allow same-sex couples to travel across state lines without jeopardizing their marriage rights.

Calling it a “one-two punch,” Leno introduced the bill in February when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom took the unprecedented step of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in an interview with “Tonight Show” show host Jay Leno he would be “fine” with same-sex marriages if “the people” or a court approved them. However, the Los Angeles Times noted the governor declined to say in a “Meet the Press” interview he would veto the same-sex marriage bill if it came to his desk.

Capitol Resource Institute was represented at the 90-minute hearing, along with opponents such as Campaign for California Families, Traditional Values Coalition, Responsible Citizens and the California Catholic Conference.

England notes the California state constitution says the Legislature cannot overturn a proposition enacted into law by popular vote, but supporters of the bill insisted the lawmakers can define marriage.

“I think it is important to note that we as the Legislature have the ability to make the laws, and in fact I do believe that it is definitely within our jurisdiction to define what is marriage,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, a Democrat from San Leandro and the committee chairwoman, according to the Associated Press.

Leno, who noted the bill now goes to an appropriations committee to determine its cost to the general fund, has argued Proposition 22 applies only to out-of-state marriages, and not to marriages in California.

During the hearing, however, Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, held up a blue-and-yellow Proposition 22 yard sign to remind the committee 61.4 percent of Californians voted in March 2000 to demand marriage be protected.

“AB 1967 is illegal, unconstitutional and immoral,” Thomasson told the committee. “This bill turns marriage upside down and utterly rejects the vote of the people to protect marriage for a man and a woman. This should have never been introduced or even had a hearing. AB 1967 is corrupt and any legislator who votes for AB 1967 is corrupt too.”

England says the “mental gymnastics” used to support the bill is a disingenuous effort to force homosexual marriage on Californians.

During the hearing, Assemblyman Tom Harman turned to Leno and said, “You took an oath to uphold the constitution the same time I did — you are going about this the wrong way.”

England says her group has other concerns, including creation of motherless and fatherless homes for children, citing studies showing children need a mom and a dad.

Additionally, she asserts, same-sex marriage hinges on the “right” of any two people to marry if they simply love each other while marriage throughout history has been between a man and a woman.

“If we re-define marriage, soon it can be anything anyone wants it to be,” said England. “AB 1967 is a great stride toward UN-defining marriage.”

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