After passing a bill granting same-sex partners nearly all the benefits of marriage, a California lawmaker is going a step further with a “homosexual marriage” bill that mirrors the Massachusetts high court’s recent landmark decision.

Legislation proposed by Assemblyman Mark Leno, a homosexual San Francisco Democrat, would bar California from denying marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

Mark Leno, D-San Francisco

“The time has come for California to honor its commitment to equality for all Californians,” Leno said in a statement this week.

Opponents contend it directly violates a 2000 state ballot measure, Proposition 22, which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

“Mark Leno’s subversive plan to introduce a full-fledged ‘gay marriage’ bill is a slap to the face of California voters, our state constitution, and to our new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger,” said Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families.

The statewide nonprofit family issues group has filed one of two lawsuits against the state for passing AB 205, the measure signed by then-Gov. Davis in September that expands the state’s existing domestic partnership program, which offers limited legal rights to more than 18,000 couples registered with the secretary of state.

The law is scheduled to go into effect in 2005.

Gov. Schwarzenegger declared during his campaign last summer, “marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”

“Governor Schwarzenegger and every Democratic and Republican legislator who has ever said marriage is only for a man and a woman should announce their unequivocal opposition to Leno’s very bad idea,” Thomasson said of the new initiative. “The sacred institution of marriage was, is and should always be for a husband and wife, a man and a woman. Marriage between a man and a woman has been the foundation of family and civilization since time immemorial.”

Leno insists his bill would not conflict with Proposition 22 because the purpose of the measure was to prevent California from being forced to recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other states. The state code pertaining to criteria for issuing a marriage license did not change, he argues.

Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, who opposes Leno’s bill, believes it could hamper Democrats in the election because it will force them to choose between alienating either homosexual voters or swing voters who oppose same-sex marriage.

“This bill will probably put some of Mark Leno’s colleagues at risk because it would go against the will of the voters,” he said, according to the Copley News Service. “It probably helps Mark in San Francisco, but it could hurt Democrats in the Central Valley.”

A USA TODAY/ CNN/Gallup Poll released this week shows a majority of Americans oppose same-sex “marriage” but fewer are against “civil unions.”

The survey indicated 53 percent oppose a law that “would allow homosexual couples to legally get married,” while 24 percent favor it.

But just 41 percent oppose “civil unions,” which offer “some of the legal rights of married couples.”

In July 2000, Vermont became the only state to legalize civil unions.

But on Nov. 18, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided homosexual couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution and should be allowed to apply for marriage licenses. The 4-3 ruling stopped short of declaring homosexual couples should be granted the licenses and does not call for them to be immediately issued to the plaintiffs in the case. Instead, the court ordered the state legislature to come up with a solution within 180 days. It granted a stay of its decision in the meantime.

A recent Zogby poll in Massachusetts shows 69 percent of respondents want to vote on an amendment to keep Massachusetts a traditional marriage state. Also, 52 percent vs. 42 percent agreed only marriage between one man and one woman should be legal and binding in America.

A Domestic Partnership Act was signed into law in New Jersey this week, granting same-sex partners unprecedented legal, health care and financial rights while stopping short of authorizing homosexual marriage, which is against state law.

Homosexual-rights advocates in New Jersey said it was not enough.

“We are pursuing all roads to justice,” said Laura Popel, president New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, according to the Associated Press.

She added that her group will continue to press for legalization of same-sex marriage.

Previous stories:

Gov. Davis sued over ‘gay marriage’ bill

California Senate OKs ‘virtual gay marriage’

‘Virtual gay marriage’ bill passes

California ‘gay’ caucus pushes ‘marriage’

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