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Bill Giving Gay Partners More Legal Rights Sent to Governor

Acting along partisan lines, the Assembly approves the legislation without a vote to spare.

September 04, 2003|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gay partners in California will gain many of the same legal rights and obligations of married couples in handling children, money and property under a bill that cleared the Legislature on Wednesday and that Gov. Gray Davis has promised to sign.

After an hour of ardent debate, the Assembly passed the bill 41 to 32, a bare majority in the 80-member house. The result triggered applause, hugs and kisses among supporters.

"I'm overjoyed," said the bill's author, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), after the vote. "It's been a marathon."

When signed into law as expected, AB 205 will give same-sex couples and couples over the age of 62 who register with the state as domestic partners a long list of additional rights and duties like those bestowed upon married couples.

They include the right to financial support after a domestic partnership is dissolved, child support or custody, the right to make funeral arrangements for a partner, and the responsibility to pay off debts incurred during the partnership.

The law would take effect in January 2005, Goldberg said, to give the 21,471 domestic partners registered with the secretary of state time to figure out whether they want to live up to the law's responsibilities. Goldberg predicted that many couples would dissolve their partnerships by filing a form with the state rather than abide by the new law. But she predicted that over time, the number of registered partners would grow.

The bill passed on largely partisan lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. Two Democrats who had abstained from voting on the bill when it first passed the Assembly in June -- Lou Correa of Anaheim and Simon Salinas of Salinas -- voted yes Wednesday, making up for two absent Democrats who had previously supported the bill, Marco Firebaugh of Los Angeles and Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach.

Assemblyman John Campbell (R-Irvine) argued against the bill, saying that it slights other mutually dependent partnerships between best friends, brothers and sisters, or a grandmother and her grandson.

"I don't oppose this bill because I'm insecure in my marriage, nor do I oppose it because of any trace of bigotry," Campbell said. "I oppose this bill because marriage and family is the fundamental building block of our society. It is under assault and has been for decades."

Republicans warned Democrats that by voting for the bill, they would undermine the will of California voters who in March 2000 passed a ballot measure declaring that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California. That measure passed, 61% to 39%.

"People of California, watch these votes," said Assemblyman Jay La Suer (R-La Mesa), who voted against the bill. "Listen to what is said. Clean this house. Put people in here who will respect your will.

"May the wrath of the people of the state of California come down on you," he said.

Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) said the bill carried out the people's will. He cited polls showing that Californians distinguish between marriage and domestic partnerships.

Goldberg said she and the four other members of the Legislature's gay and lesbian caucus debated whether to pursue marriage or civil unions for homosexual couples. They decided instead to expand domestic partnership rights.

"Many in the community I represent are not happy with that ... and won't be happy until we're talking about marriage on an equal footing," Goldberg said. "I appreciate that. I'm even of that mind myself.

"My view was, why leave families unprotected that could get protection under domestic partnership just because we were not yet politically able, socially able, culturally able to get the whole ball of wax?"



How members of the Assembly voted

The California Assembly on Wednesday passed and sent to the governor a measure, AB 205, that would extend to domestic partners many of the same rights that are now afforded married partners.

Democrats for (41):

Berg (Eureka); Bermudez (Norwalk); Calderon (Montebello); Canciamilla (Pittsburg);Chan (Alameda); Chu (Monterey Park); Cohn (Saratoga); Corbett (San Leandro); Correa (Anaheim); Diaz (San Jose); Dutra (Fremont); Dymally (Compton); Frommer (Los Feliz); Goldberg (Los Angeles); Hancock (Berkeley); Jackson (Santa Barbara); Kehoe (San Diego); Koretz (West Hollywood); Laird (Santa Cruz); Leno (San Francisco); Levine (Van Nuys); Lieber (Mountain View); Liu (La Canada Flintridge); Longville (Rialto); Lowenthal (Long Beach); Montanez (San Fernando); Mullin (San Mateo); Nakano (Torrance); Nation (San Rafael); Negrete-McLeod (Chino); Nunez (Los Angeles); Pavley (Agoura Hills); Ridley-Thomas (Los Angeles); Salinas (Salinas); Simitian (Palo Alto); Steinberg (Sacramento); Vargas (San Diego);Wesson (Culver City); Wiggins (Santa Rosa); Wolk (Davis);Yee (San Francisco).

Democrats against (1):

Parra (Hanford)

Republicans for: (0)

Republicans against (31):

Aghazarian (Stockton); Bates (Laguna Niguel); Benoit (Palm Desert); Bogh (Cherry Valley); Campbell (Irvine); Cogdill (Modesto); Cox (Fair Oaks); Daucher (Brea); Dutton (Rancho Cucamonga); Garcia (Cathedral City); Harman (Huntington Beach); Haynes (Murrieta); Houston (Livermore); Keene (Chico); La Malfa (Richvale);La Suer (La Mesa); Leslie (Tahoe City); Maddox (Garden Grove); Maldonado (Santa Maria); Maze (Visalia); McCarthy (Bakersfield); Mountjoy (Monrovia); Nakanishi (Lodi); Pacheco (Walnut); Plescia (San Diego); Richman (Northridge); Runner (Lancaster); Samuelian (Clovis); Spitzer (Orange);Strickland (Moorpark); Wyland (Escondido).

Absent or not voting:

Chavez (D-La Puente); Firebaugh (D-Los Angeles); J. Horton (D-Inglewood); S. Horton (R-Chula Vista); Matthews (D-Tracy); Oropeza (D-Long Beach); Reyes (D-Fresno).

Source: California Assembly

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