Legislature OKs Gay MarriageDesparate to avoid political controversy, Schwarzenegger has contradicted the Republican line by saying he thinks the courts should settle the issue of gay marriage.
Assembly action sends the bill to the governor, who has signaled that he will veto the measure.
By Nancy Vogel, Times Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature made history Tuesday as the Assembly passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
With no votes to spare, California's lawmakers became the first in the United States to act without a court order to sanction gay marriages. The measure was approved after three Democratic lawmakers who abstained on a similar proposal that failed in June changed their minds under intense lobbying by bill author Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and gay and civil rights activists.
No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Forty-one of the Assembly's 47 Democrats voted yes; four Democrats voted "no," and two abstained.
The bill, which would change California's legal definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to a "civil contract between two persons," now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has signaled that he will veto it.
Tuesday's vote came after 23 lawmakers addressed the chamber, many of them focusing on the historic element of their action, others relating intensely personal stories.
In a moment of high drama, with dozens of gay rights supporters watching from the gallery, Simon Salinas (D-Salinas) hesitated for several seconds as the tally hung at 40 "ayes" — one short of passage. Then, having promised Leno months ago that he would not let the bill fail, Salinas pressed the "aye" button on his desk, making the final vote 41-35.
...[Tom Umberg of Anaheim] elicited applause and whoops in the otherwise hushed chamber when he described why he had changed his mind. He said he had been "cajoled, been harassed, been harangued and been threatened" by friends over the issue.
"This is one of those times when history looks upon us to see where we are," Umberg said. "Ten years from now, there are a handful of issues that history will record where we stood, and this is one of those issues.
"History will record whether we pushed a bit, took the lead to encourage tolerance, to encourage equality to encourage fairness," he said.
"The constituency I'm concerned about is a very small one," said Umberg, "and that's the constituency of my three children, should they decide to look back on my record … and reflect on where I was when we could make a difference."
You can send the Governor an e-mail asking him to be brave and sign the bill here.