- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Same-sex “marriage” promises to be a hot topic in California next year, as lawmakers introduce dueling bills this week and a high-profile lawsuit gets a hearing later this month.

“We want to equalize everything,” said California Assemblyman Mark Leno, who on Monday introduced his bill to make marriage “gender-neutral.”

Currently, California’s family code says marriage arises out of a civil contract “between a man and a woman.” Mr. Leno’s bill would change the wording to “between two persons.”

It also says that no clergyman will be required to solemnize a same-sex ceremony.

“This protects everyone’s right to freedom of religion. At the same time, it ensures that all Californians are provided equal protection under the law” regarding marriage licenses, Mr. Leno, a homosexual Democrat who represents San Francisco, told reporters yesterday.

Opponents of same-sex “marriage” rallied in the state Capitol in Sacramento yesterday.

“Merry Christmas, California. The Democrat politicians want to trash your vote and push homosexual ‘marriage’ on you and children,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a traditional-values group.

The Traditional Values Coalition, led by the Rev. Lou Sheldon, has denounced the Leno bill and called for a state constitutional marriage amendment instead.

This week, Republican Assemblyman Ray Haynes of Riverside and state Sen. Bill Morrow of Oceanside introduced bills to amend the state constitution to say that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This is the language of Proposition 22, a ballot initiative passed by 61 percent of voters in 2000 that cannot be overturned by lawmakers.

Part of the upcoming debate will be over whether Proposition 22 refers to all marriages conducted in California or only out-of-state marriages that seek recognition in California.

The Leno bill is generally given better odds for passage. The California Legislature is dominated by Democrats and both chambers’ leaders — Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez of Los Angeles and state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata of Oakland — have signaled their support for Mr. Leno’s bill, which is co-sponsored by Mr. Nunez.

There will be some Democratic dissent, one assemblyman warned. “Not every Democrat represents Los Angeles or San Francisco,” Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, a Democrat who represents suburban Pittsburg, told the San Francisco Chronicle this week. “There are a number of members who think this is a mistake,” he said.

But Mr. Leno’s bill only needs a bare majority to pass, while the Republican marriage amendment need approval by two-thirds of lawmakers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a wild card in the process. Detroit News columnist Deb Price wrote this week that Mr. Schwarzenegger has said he “doesn’t oppose gay marriage if his state wants it.”

This has bolstered Mr. Leno’s hopes that California might soon become the first state to allow same-sex “marriage” because of legislative — not court — action, Ms. Price wrote. Such a move would “put a stake through the ‘activist judges’ argument,” she quotes Mr. Leno as saying.

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