California's legislature on Tuesday (local time) became the first legislative body in the United States to approve a bill allowing same-sex marriages, but the measure faces an uncertain future with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There were loud cheers by gay-rights activists in the Assembly gallery as lawmakers voted 41-35 to approve the bill and send it to the governor. The assembly had twice defeated similar legislation.
A spokeswoman for the Republican governor said Schwarzenegger believes the issue should be decided by the courts, not by his signature on legislation. A state appellate court is considering appeals of a lower court ruling that overturned California laws banning recognition of gay marriages.
"He will uphold whatever the court decides," Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said.
Gay-marriage supporters nonetheless rejoiced the victory. They compared the legislation to earlier civil rights campaigns to eradicate slavery and give women the right to vote.
"As the debate today shows, love conquers fear, principle conquers politics and equality conquers injustice, and the governor can now secure his legacy as a true leader by signing this bill," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a backer of the bill.
The bill, sponsored by San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, had failed in the Assembly by four votes in June, but Leno was confident he could get it through on a second try after the Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill last week.
"Do what we know is in our hearts," Leno said. "Make sure all California families will have the same protection under the law."
Assemblyman Tom Umberg, a Democrat who abstained in the vote in June, said he was concerned about what his three children would think of him if he didn't join those "who sought to take a leadership role in terms of tolerance, equality and fairness."
But opponents repeatedly cited the public's vote five years ago to approve Proposition 22, an initiative put on the ballot by gay marriage opponents to keep California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
"History will record that you betrayed your constituents and their moral and ethical values," said Republican Assemblyman Jay La Suer.
Call for veto
Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families, a conservative group opposed to the bill, said Schwarzenegger should announce immediately that he would veto the legislation.
"Schwarzenegger can't afford to sign the gay marriage license bill," he said. "He'll actually become a hero to the majority of Californians when he vetoes it."
California already gives same-sex couples many of the rights and duties of marriage if they register with the state as domestic partners.
Massachusetts' highest court ruled in 2003 that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. The nation's first state-sanctioned, same-sex weddings began taking place in May 2004.
Vermont began offering civil unions in 2000, after a ruling by the state's Supreme Court. Earlier this year, Connecticut became the first state to approve civil unions without being forced by the courts.
Regardless of what action the governor takes, California's debate over gay marriage will continue on several fronts.
A state appeals court is considering challenges to a lower court ruling that overturned California laws banning recognition of gay marriages.
Source: China Daily