Updated June 3, 2005
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–An historic vote to legalize “gay marriage” in California ended in a surprising loss for homosexual activists June 2, giving social conservatives a rare victory in the state legislature.
The California assembly defeated a “gay marriage” bill for the third time in two days June 2, preventing the assembly from becoming the first legislative body in the United States to pass such a proposal. Needing 41 votes, it received support from only 37 members. Thirty-six opposed it.
In two earlier votes, the bill had fallen six votes short on identical 35-37 votes.
In the months leading up to the vote the bill’s sponsor, along with the assembly speaker, had expressed optimism that it would pass. But in the end, opposition from a handful of Democrats doomed the bill.
Nevertheless, it was an historical vote. No legislative body in the U.S. had ever voted on a bill legalizing “gay marriage.”
Opponents said the bill violates both the will of the people and the California constitution. In 2000 California voters passed an initiative — Proposition 22 — explicitly banning “gay marriage.” It passed by a margin of 61-39 percent. The state constitution prohibits the legislature from overriding a voter-backed initiative.
Glen Lavy, an attorney with the pro-family legal group Alliance Defense Fund, called the loss for homosexual activists “significant.”
“This defeat shows that even the homosexual-friendly California assembly is not willing to go so far as to redefine marriage,” Lavy told Baptist Press.
The votes were mostly along party lines, with Republicans opposing it and Democrats supporting it. On the final vote, five Democrats opposed it and another six Democrats abstained, keeping it from passing. All the “yes” votes came from Democrats. No Republican supported the bill.
If it had passed it would have gone to the senate, which also is controlled by Democrats. Even it had been signed into law — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had not taken a position on it — it would have faced a lawsuit.
Homosexual activists vowed to try again next year. But their best opportunity may be in state court, where a lawsuit seeking the legalization of “gay marriage” is making its way up the system. They won on the trial court level, although that ruling is being appealed.
Pro-family groups have countered by supporting a petition campaign that would place an amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage on the ballot in 2006. They have launched a website: www.voteyesmarriage.com.
A constitutional amendment would trump any law and any court ruling.
“We’ve avoided this particular bullet, but more attacks on marriage are coming from judges in San Francisco,” Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, said in a statement. “The people of California are learning that to keep everything about marriage for a man and a woman, they absolutely must pass a true-blue state constitutional amendment to override the politicians and judges who have such blatant disregard for marriage and the voters.”
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno, told reporters afterward that the loss was “frustrating, confounding and exasperating.” Leno, who is homosexual, had acknowledged his bill’s constitutional hurdle but argued that Proposition 22 bans only out-of-state “gay marriages.” If his bill were to pass, he said, California would recognize in-state “marriages” but not those from Massachusetts. Leno is one of five members of the legislature’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.
Bill opponents called Leno’s argument nonsense and pointed to the language of Proposition 22, which states that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
“I think you have to ignore the words of Proposition 22 to come to that conclusion,” Lavy said, referring to the arguments by bill supporters. “‘Valid’ refers to something in the state and ‘recognized’ refers to something out of state. Those words are not redundant. They refer to two different things.”
California has a domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples most of the legal benefits of marriage. But supporters of the bill say the law is not enough.
“Today, we saw the true colors of a handful of Democrats and all Republican members who have deserted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and voted for discrimination,” Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the homosexual activist group Equality California, said in a statement. “… The vote was extremely close, and while disappointing, this is a giant step forward that will only build momentum to pass this bill in the near future.”
But Republican Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy said activists were attempting to normalize homosexuality.
“They … want our children to be told that homosexuality is OK, that it’s natural,” Mountjoy said, according to The Sacramento Bee. “I’m here to tell you it’s not OK, it’s not natural, and I don’t want our children taught that.”
Added Republican Assemblyman Jay La Suer: “This has nothing to do with discrimination — it has everything to do with the destruction of the moral fabric of America.”
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage