Sunday, July 12, 2009

California Bill to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Performed Outside State Passes Senate Committee

Senate Bill 54, sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno and which addresses same-sex marriages performed outside of California and whether the Golden State will recognize them, sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 7-3 along party lines.

The bill seeks to clarify what was left unanswered by the Supreme Court in its ruling to uphold Prop 8. In it, the bill claims that same-sex couples who married outside of California before Prop 8 went into effect on November 5, 2008 are recognized as married spouses. The bill also confirms that same-sex couples who married outside California after November 5, 2008, or plan to do so in the future, must receive the same rights, protections, benefits, obligations and responsibilities afforded to opposite-sex spouses, with the sole exception of the designation of “marriage.”

"This legislation, in my view, attempts in a limited way to clarify an issue that could result in exacerbating inequality," said Assembly Judiciary Chairman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles. It is "utterly consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in Strauss," he said.

Conservative groups say that the Supreme Court remained silent on the issue, so as consequence, it should be decided yet again by the people in a vote and not circumvent the proper process which they're accusing the supporters of the bill of doing. reports on some of the drama at the hearing:
During Thursday's hearing, Leno took a shot at the late Sen. William "Pete" Knight, who authored Prop 22, the 2000 initiative banning gay marriage that was overturned by the state Supreme Court last year.

"He could see that change was about to hit the shores of California, and he wanted to protect the status quo, the discriminatory status quo," Leno said.

Sitting several feet away from Leno was Knight's son, Republican Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, who serves on the Assembly Judiciary and voted against SB 54. California should not recognize out-of-state gay marriages "just like there are gun laws in other states that we do not accept," Knight said.
Democrats hold a majority of both California legislative houses, so speculation surrounds Gov. Schwarzenegger and whether or not he'll sign the bill if it reaches his desk. He vetoed two bills legalizing marriage equality in the past but has taken a public stance against Prop 8.

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