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Friday, June 03, 2005

California lawmakers kill off gay marriage bill


California's Assembly on Thursday killed off a bill that would have allowed gay marriage in the nation's most populous state.

The measure, defeated in a third and final vote, mirrored a bill that also failed last year and proposed making marriage in California "gender-neutral" and a "personal relation arising out of a civil contract between two persons."

In its first two votes starting late on Wednesday night, the Democratic-controlled Assembly fell six votes short of the needed 41 votes for the bill by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, who is openly gay.

He lobbied intensely throughout the day, but picked up only two additional votes for the measure. The last vote on Thursday night ahead of a Friday deadline to pass current legislation was 37-36.

None of the 33 Republicans in the 80-member Assembly backed the bill.

"This issue does not go away. Gay and lesbian couples are not going to disappear as of tonight," a bitter Leno said after the vote. "But they will have been told by the state of California one more time they're not worthy."

"We have to be patient," he continued. "Every poll shows that those over 65 oppose this idea ... but those under 35 support it more than those over 65 oppose it. So when the demographic shift occurs, the debate ends."

California became a prime battleground for same-sex marriage after Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, one of the world's gay capitals, allowed more than 4,000 homosexual couples to wed last year until halted by court order.

A legal fight over gay marriage continues in California courts, as it does in many U.S. states, and is likely to last for years.

President Bush has called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, also a Republican, has expressed opposition to same sex weddings.

California law affirms a traditional definition of marriage but also allows domestic partnerships for gay couples, providing them many rights extended to married heterosexuals.


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