A bill that would grant nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples in California is another step closer to Gov. Gray Davis’ desk for signature.
California Gov. Gray Davis
Davis, who faces an Oct. 7 recall election, has promised to sign the bill, but opponents call it a virtual establishment of “gay marriage,” contending it dismisses the will of Californians who passed Proposition 22 in 2000, which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.
The state Senate passed the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act yesterday by 23-14 on a virtual party-line vote. The only member to cross the aisle was Democrat Dean Florez of the Central Valley, who voted no along with 13 Republicans.
The bill, AB 205, now goes back to the Assembly for approval of Senate amendments. The Assembly passed it in June by a 41-29 count, the minimum number of votes needed in the 80-member chamber.
Announcing his intention Aug. 17, Davis said the legislation would ensure “fairness for all Californians.”
Lone Democrat dissenter Sen. Dean Florez
“This bill not only provides additional rights for domestic partners, it also imposes significant new obligations such as shared responsibility for debts and financial support for children,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who leads Democrats in polls for the fall election, endorsed AB 205 three months ago.
Leading Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger said in an interview Wednesday with radio talk show host Sean Hannity he supported domestic partnerships but did not back “gay” marriage.
Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, says Schwarzenegger’s position won’t fly with the “pro-family” voters his group represents.
“You can’t say you support domestic partnerships and still claim you’ll protect marriage for a man and a woman. They’re mutually exclusive,” said Thomasson. “Giving away the rights and benefits of marriage to homosexual sex partners is not pro-family and not pro-marriage.”
The five openly homosexual state lawmakers recently sent Schwarzenegger a letter asking him to clarify his positions on AB 205 and other related measures they have sponsored, but he hasn’t responded, according to Planetout.com.
Davis already has on his desk a bill for signature requiring foster parents to support any sexual behaviors of children placed under their care. AB 458 says the parents have “a legal responsibility” to support “gender identity” – meaning transsexuality and cross-dressing – and bisexual and homosexual behavior by foster children in their own homes.
Opponents argue county foster care staff would be pressured to give special treatment to homosexual, bisexual and transsexual behavior. They also insist the workers would be forced to discriminate against foster parents who, on moral grounds, cannot support any kind of sexual behavior by children in their homes.
Another bill, AB 17, sponsored by the homosexual-rights group Equality California, would prohibit state agencies from contracting with employers who fail to provide the same benefits to employees with domestic partners that they give to employees with spouses.
The bill, which applies to contracts of $100,000 or more, will be voted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee today.
On Aug. 3, Davis signed a bill authorizing fines of up to $150,000 for companies or nonprofit groups, such as the Boy Scouts, that refuse to hire or rent a home to a cross-dresser, transsexual or drag queen.
‘Who made you king?’
Campaign for California Families’ Thomasson accused advocates of the domestic partner bill of playing games with words, insisting it is “gay marriage by another name.”
In testimony before a Senate committee last week, Thomasson cited the bill’s text, which says, “This act shall be construed liberally in order to secure to eligible couples who register as domestic partners the full range of legal rights … as the laws of California extend to and impose upon spouses.”
The bill would give California same-sex couples a status second only to their counterparts in Vermont, which passed a civil union law in 2000. AB 205 includes the right to child support and alimony, health coverage under a partner’s plan and the right to make funeral arrangements.
“I wish to hell it was a marriage bill,” said Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, according to the Associated Press. “I wish Barbara and I could get married. … But this is about adding a few benefits and responsibilities to the domestic partner law.”
In his Senate testimony, however, Thomasson lambasted the bill’s author, Democrat Assembly member Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles, and its supporters.
“Who gave you the right to be king?” he said. ‘”What gave you the right to lord over the people and reject their vote?”
Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, contended the bill would not undermine Proposition 22, which passed with 61 percent of the vote, but would clarify the obligations and responsibilities of domestic partners.
“This is a simple way for two people, who whether you like it or not, have a family and are raising children, to manage their family to the best of their abilities,” Murray said, according to AP.
AB 205, unlike Vermont’s civil unions, would not require a marriage-like ceremony in court, and the relationship could be ended without the same court process as divorce. Instead, it would expand the state’s existing domestic partnership program, established in 1999, which offers limited legal rights to about 20,000 couples registered with the secretary of state.
A description of the bill by Equality California, a sponsor, says it grants “nearly all of the rights, benefits, and obligations currently available only to spouses under state law.”
The Netherlands and Belgium are the only countries that treat a same-sex couple’s relationship exactly as one between a man and a woman.
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