Same-sex marriage/domestic partnerships in California
Bill AB-43: the
and Civil Marriage Protection Act."
Prior to 2008-JUN, California allowed loving, committed same-sex couples to register as a
domestic partnership. However, they were not allowed to marry. Partnerships do not have the universal recognition as
Bill AB 43, the "Religious Freedom
and Civil Marriage Protection Act" was introduced by Assemblymember
Mark Leno on 2006-DEC-04. It would allow all loving, committed couples in the
state to marry, whether they are of opposite-sexes or the same-sex couples. This is
his third attempt to pass a marriage equity law in California.
The law contains a clause that guarantees the right of any religious group to
refuse to marry same-sex couples if their beliefs require them to discriminate
in this way.
The bill passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on
2007-APR-10 and was approved by the California State Assembly by a vote of 42 to
34. It passed the Senate by a vote of 22 to 15. It was vetoed
by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
Text of the bill:
The text states, in part:
"This bill would enact the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage
Protection Act, which would instead provide that marriage is a personal
relation arising out of a civil contract between 2 persons. ..."
"(f) By excluding same-sex couples from marriage, California's marriage
law discriminates against members of same-sex couples based on their sexual
orientation and based on their gender. The exclusion of same-sex couples
from marriage is based in significant part on, and perpetuates, gender
stereotypes about the roles of men and women in families and in society."
"(g) California's discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage
harms same-sex couples and their families by denying those couples and their
families specific legal rights and responsibilities under state law and by
depriving members of those couples and their families of a legal basis to
challenge federal laws that deny access to the many important federal
benefits and obligations provided only to spouses . ... Those federal
benefits include the right to file joint federal income tax returns, the
right to sponsor a partner for immigration to the United States, the right
to social security survivor's benefits, the right to family and medical
leave, and many other substantial benefits and obligations. ,,,"
"(i) California's discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from
marriage further harms same-sex couples and their families by denying them
the unique public recognition and validation that marriage confers.
"(j) The Legislature has an interest in encouraging stable relationships
regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the partners. The benefits
that accrue to the general community when couples undertake the mutual
obligations of marriage accrue regardless of the gender or sexual
orientation of the partners."
The bill would have modified Section 300, 301, and 302 of the Family Code to make
them gender-neutral. It also adds section 403 to guarantee clergy the right to
discriminate against same-sex couples if they wish:
"No priest, minister, or rabbi of any religious denomination, and no
official of any nonprofit religious institution authorized to solemnize
marriages, shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his
or her right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment
to the United States Constitution or by Section 4 of Article I of the
The full text of the bill is available online. 1
Introduction of the bill into the House:
AB 43 was co-authored by 28 Assemblymembers and 14 Senators. It is supported
by a coalition of over 250 civil rights organizations and leaders, including the
NAACP California State Conference, United Farm Workers, Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund, Chinese for Affirmative Action, California
Teachers Association, ACLU, California Nurses Association, Anti-Defamation
League, California National Organization for Women, California Church
Impact, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It is opposed by the Capitol
Resource Institute, and all or essentially all conservative religious groups. A
full list of supporting and opposing churches and other organizations is
available online. 2
According to Equality California, a LGBT positive organization:
"The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would guarantee
the California Constitution's promise of religious freedom and extend the
vital protections afforded by marriage to loving and committed same-sex
" 'The California Assembly has once again affirmed that every Californian
deserves the opportunity to marry the person he or she loves,' said EQCA
Executive Director Geoff Kors. 'Today's vote shows that support for ending
the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is growing. The people of
California, through their elected representatives, are speaking on this
issue and they are coming down on the side of fairness'. ..."
" 'We have lived with domestic partnerships in California for seven years
and we know that they are not a substitute for marriage,' said Kors.
'Today's vote demonstrates that the Legislature recognizes this
unjustifiable inequity, and we applaud their determination to end it.
Marriage is one of life's significant and universally understood progressions
that all people should have the ability to experience if they so desire'." 3
The Capitol Resource Institute promotes the status
quo. In a suggested letter to Assembly Members, they state:
"The importance of
preserving traditional marriage cannot be overestimated. The traditional
family unit of mother, father and children is the safest, healthiest
environment in which to raise children. Please stand with the vast majority
of Californians by voting to protect traditional marriage." 4
The term "traditional marriage" is used by religious and social
conservative to refer to laws that exclude same-sex couples
Their reference to a "vast majority" of Californians being against same-sex
marriage appears to be based on the Proposition 22 vote in the year 2000 where
61% of voters agreed that California would not recognize same-sex marriage.
"Marriage between a man and a woman is good and natural -- even sacred.
Since the beginning of time, marriage has been the foundation of family and
society. You need a man and a woman to further our civilization by bringing
children into the world. ..."
Do you see how marriage provides an important foundation for children?
Without going into all the details, it's self-evident that a man and a woman
were made to fit together. You need a man and a woman to achieve sexual
intercourse. You need a man and a woman for the miracle of procreation, to
conceive a baby. You need a man and a woman to have a marriage and provide a
healthy marriage role model for children everywhere.
Marriage is especially important for the raising of children. Research shows
a child does best when raised by a father and mother who are married. On
average, marriage serves the well-being of children -- by raising boys and
girls who are better educated, physically healthier, emotionally more
stable, and less likely to get involved with drugs, drop out of school, get
pregnant before marriage, or become victims of violent crime.
The implication is that a marriage between two men or between two women is
not good and is unnatural, and irreligious. They appear to base their argument
on studies that compare a man-woman led family with single parent families, and
then use the data to denigrate same-sex marriages. They appear to ignore the use
of artificial insemination to enable two married women to conceive, and the use
of adoption to enable two married men to raise a family. They also ignore the
findings of a meta-study that examined over 100 studies on parenting in various
family types. It concluded that same-sex parents were
equal or better than opposite-sex parents in child rearing.
Conservative Christian response:
According to the fundamentalist Christian
group, The Traditional Values Coalition:
" 'The State Assembly has turned its back on California's families yet
again,' said Benjamin Lopez, Lobbyist for Traditional Values Coalition (TVC).
'Forty-Two Democrats have taken it upon themselves to ram down the throats of
Californians a twisted, out-of-step, out-of-mainstream version of marriage and
family. Make no mistake; this vote proves that it is Democrats who are
pro-homosexual and anti-family. They will surely pay for this'."
"Just moments ago the California State Assembly voted 42 to 34, just one
vote over the bear [sic] minimum number needed for passage, to pass Assembly
Bill 43, by homosexual Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), a bill that
would strike references to 'male' and 'female' in the marriage code and
would instead add the phrase 'two persons' to the definition of marriage
thereby allowing two men or two women to marry. ..."
" 'We will be relentless in conveying to Senators that California is not
in favor of blatant homosexual marriages,' Lopez added. 'Any Senator who now
votes for this bill will do so at their own peril. Our roads need repairing,
gas prices are too high, people can't afford homes, we're running out of
water and Democrats see homosexual marriage as the burning issue of the day.
Just which party has California's families' best interests in mind'!" 5
It would seem that the economic criticism of same-sex marriage is not
justifiable. The cost of implementing same-sex marriages would be minimal in
California. It would cost money to promulgate and print a new version of the marriage act.
But, government workers who now handle marriage and domestic
partnership registration would have their job simplified; they would only have
to handle marriages. There would only need to be one data base maintained for
married couples, compared to two separate data bases today.
Twenty-one Assemblymembers and the Speaker of the Assembly spoke in favor of
AB 43. 6
According to Capitol Resource Institute, an advocacy group promoting "family-friendly
policies" for opposite-sex couples, eight members spoke against the bill:
"Assemblyman Chuck DeVore eloquently argued that this is not an issue of
rights, but is a fundamental question of the purpose of marriage.
Assemblyman Doug La Malfa expressed his dismay that there are no longer any
institutions so sacred that they are untouchable by the liberal California
legislature. Also speaking out against AB 43 were Assembly members Anthony
Adams, Joel Anderson, Sharon Runner, Bill Maze, Mike Villines and Ted
Passage of the bill by the Senate:
State Senator Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, presented the bill to the Senate. She was
also the first openly gay person to be elected to the Legislature. She said:
"Marriage is more than just a
civil contract ... it is different from domestic partners, it's just
different from civil unions - it means something. And because it means
something, that's why it's been denied to us." 7
Benjamin Lopez, a lobbyist for the
fundamentalist Christian Traditional Values Coalition, said:
"We see AB43 as yet another
heavy-handed, blatant attempt for Mark Leno and Co. to skirt the current
restrictions in law that prevents same-sex marriages in California. 7
The San Francisco Chronicle reported:
said that if Leno's bill were signed, it would be the result of 'sympathetic
liberal legislators and liberal judges who force it upon the people,' and
that 'the whole definition of the family will be torn asunder'." 7
The California Senate approved bill
AB-43 by a vote of 22 to 15 to substitute the term "two persons" for "man and
wife" in the state's marriage law. This would allow all loving committed couples
to marry, whether they are of the opposite-sex or same-sex. All 12 Republicans
and three Democrats voted against the bill.
The bill went to Governor
Schwarzenegger who vetoed the legislation.
Proposed constitutional amendment:
VoteYesMarriage.com 8 is
proposing a marriage amendment to the state constitution that would override all
legislation and court rulings. It would prohibit
same-sex marriage and retain marriage as a special privilege of opposite-sex
couples only. 9
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Bill number: AB 43, December 4, 2006," text at:
"Support and Opposition to AB 43," Capitol Resource Institute, at:
"Fact Sheet: The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (AB 43),"
Equality California, 2007-JUN-05, at:
"AB 43 Same Sex Marriage," Capitol Resource Institute, at:
- "California State Assembly Democrats Barely Pass Homosexual Marriage
Bill Yet Again and Defy Voters," News release, Traditional Values Coalition, 2007-JUN-05.
"Homosexual Marriage Approved by California Assembly," Capitol Resource Institute, 2007-MAY-05, at:
Haley Davies, "Legislature OKs same-sex marriage bill; governor expected to veto," San Francisco Chronicle, 2007-SEP-08,
"VoteYesMarriage.com" is, as one would suspect, at:
Hilary White, "California Senate Votes to Impose Same-Sex 'Marriage' on State," Life Site News, 2007-SEP-11.