California legislative and legal watchdog groups are planning a counter-attack in the wake of Gov. Gray Davis’ recent signing of a bill granting to homosexuals a dozen rights traditionally associated with marriage.

Davis is “coming out of the closet with his ambition to redefine marriage and family,” charges Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families. Some of the rights granted under the bill, AB25, include “expand[ed] sick leave, health coverage, tax benefits, and disability pay for domestic partners of employees receiving coverage,” according to the governor’s press release.

When Davis signed the bill, he remarked that he was doing so to ensure fairness for all.

“This bill is about responsibility, respect, and most of all about family – and it’s about time,” he said. Ever cautious to avoid being called anti-marriage, Davis said in his signing statement that AB 25 did not undermine marriage:

“In California, a legal marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe the only things that can undermine the bonds of a strong marriage are ignorance and fear,” he said at the Oct. 14 ceremony. “This legislation does nothing to contradict or undermine the definition of a legal marriage, nor is it about special rights,” he added.

The governor was flanked by the bill’s author, San Francisco Assemblywoman Carole Midgen, as well as Paul Holm, whose former partner, Mark Bingham, was killed aboard United flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.

The governor’s signature on AB 25 “marks a stellar advance for lesbians and gays in California,” said Midgen, who added, “It recognizes important everyday rights under the law that affect all individuals and their families. This new law sends a message across the nation that California celebrates the dignity and diversity of all people, including same-sex couples.”

Thomasson and other pro-family activists say the bill was quietly marshaled through the legislature at a time when the entire nation’s attention was focused on the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and their aftermath.

State Sen. William J. “Pete” Knight, R-Ridgecrest, said proponents of domestic partnerships in California want to thwart the will of the people by circumventing Proposition 22. Knight’s 2000 proposition garnered an overwhelming 61 percent of the voters in California.

Titled the “California Defense of Marriage Act,” the successful Proposition 22 stated simply: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The Republican senator vowed to fight for Prop. 22: “Despite this recent attack, I will continue working to protect the definition of marriage as stated in Proposition 22 and uphold the will of the voters,” he said, adding that “the voters should continue to persuade their elected representatives to enforce the law.”

Knight’s communications director David Orozco noted that another domestic partner bill, AB 1338, currently in the legislature as a two-year bill, is “taking a huge leap on civil unions.” A Judiciary hearing held last week regarding AB 1338 was stacked by the bill’s proponents, he said.

While Thomasson called the hearing a “kangaroo court,” Orozco speculated that AB 1338 was purposely made into a two-year bill to attract support for a measure that will be on par with Vermont’s civil-union statute.

Another hearing is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 5, in the Los Angeles City Council chambers. Among the panelists will be Richard Ackerman of the United States Justice Foundation, which opposes AB 1338.

Explaining that his organization is exploring various responses, including legal ones, to address the concerns over granting marital status to same-sex civil unions, Ackerman says the USJF is closely monitoring the situation.

“USJF will cooperate in any effort to challenge the passage of AB1338. We want to ensure that this is a concerted effort which will result in the elimination of any ‘civil union’ statute in California,” he said. “I would anticipate that there will be a multi-organization challenge to this unconstitutional attempt to avoid the will of the people as expressed through the passage of Proposition 22.”

In written testimony he prepared for next Monday’s hearing on AB 1338, Ackerman points out some of the problems his legal organization sees with the legislation. One major concern, for example, is the burden AB 1338 places on employers, forcing them to extend employment benefits to civil unions and offer health insurance to partners in civil unions.

The fact that there is no religious exemption from AB 1338 would be “constitutionally unacceptable, as AB 1338 would create an excessive entanglement of state and religion,” Ackerman states in his testimony.

A lot of off-scene maneuvering is going on, Thomasson told WND.

“There are meetings that are occurring about this behind the scenes, right now,” he said. “People who could lead or assist any legal challenge are talking quite intensely about defending the people’s vote. The arrogant homosexual activists who hate traditional marriage and have thumbed their nose at the people’s vote may have awakened a sleeping tiger. If you mess with marriage, there are a lot of mommies and daddies who are not happy with you.”

He added, “Any legal challenge will have to be done carefully, because we need a win and no missteps.”

Related stories:

California bill redefines marriage

More benefits for California homosexuals

Legislators’s office: ‘You will burn in hell’

Protesters urge veto of pro-homosexual bills

‘California families’ win legislative battle

How to define ‘domestic partners’

Homosexuals win marriage benefits in Vermont

Maria Elena Kennedy, a journalist based in Southern California, writes about religion, politics and law for various outlets in California, including the Spanish language newspaper, La Cruz de Calfornia.

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