SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–Efforts to bring homosexual marriage to California apparently collapsed late Jan. 14 as support for a controversial civil union bill fell short, even among moderate lawmakers.
Co-authored by 14 Democrats, AB 1338 — The California Family Protection Act — would have given homosexual couples an estimated 1,500 marriage-related benefits, including the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of a partner, file joint state tax returns, sue for wrongful death and share property titles.
Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz, who introduced the measure last year, said his bill is postponed, not dead. He plans to table the legislation so he’ll have more time to gather the 41-votes he needs to move the bill out of the 80-member Assembly and into the state Senate.
“This bill is still a priority for me. I will reintroduce this bill over and over until it’s passed,” Koretz said. “There is a lot of educating that still needs to be done, and this allows us time to do that.”
AB 1338 sparked a political furor among the bill’s few Democratic supporters and conservative voices who say marriage should only exist between a man and a woman.
Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, said AB 1338 would “cheapen marriage.”
His organization gathered dozens of signatures from California lawmakers pledging to oppose the Vermont-style civil union bill.
Thomasson said when voters approved Proposition 22, which banned same-sex marriage, the debate over allowing so-called “civil unions” also ended.
Sen. Pete Knight, who authored Prop. 22, said homosexual activists are counting on the legislature to continue its trend of further extending benefits to homosexuals.
The most significant step came last year when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation giving registered domestic partners many of the protections previously granted only to married couples.
“The voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage,” Knight said. “This bill plays word games to skirt Prop. 22 and legalize same-sex marriage under a different name.”
However, observers on both sides of the issue said it is unlikely AB 1338 will go anywhere this year, especially in a statewide election year.
Morris Kight, a longtime gay activist and member of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, said he fears that Gov. Gray Davis’ presidential aspirations may hamper the bill’s progress, even if it is reintroduced next year.
“Gov. Davis has not been very enthusiastic about gay marriages,” Kight said. He added, while the governor needs to be “sensitive to the electorate,” he also needs to acknowledge the rights of all Californians.
“Gay marriage is really an issue that time and patience will decide,” Kight said. “It’s revolutionary that the issue is even being discussed at this level.”
However, Thomasson said California voters spoke loud and clear when they voted to ban recognition of same-sex marriages.
“Civil unions are simply homosexual marriage by another name,” he quipped. “Bringing the bill back by another name is just a shell game.”
Even so, Koretz said when voters approved Prop. 22, they were not seeking to disallow rights to homosexual couples, but only sought to protect an institution that for many is of religious importance.
“Same-sex couples deserve equal treatment, legal recognition of their families; the same legal recognition that my wife and I were granted when we committed our lives to each other,” Koretz said.
Rizo is a correspondent with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.