California Bill Revives Gay Marriage Battle

March 1, 2001 12:00 am

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SACRAMENTO, CA — A California state legislator on Thursday unveiled a new “civil union” bill designed to extend marriage-like protections to gay couples, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, the bill has revived a notion which California voters rejected last year after a bitter political fight.

Assemblyman Paul Koretz, Democrat of West Hollywood, said his new “California Family Protection Act” was modeled on a civil union bill signed into law in Vermont last year, the broadest gay rights measure ever passed in the United States.

“This bill is about equality,” Koretz said on Thursday. ”Same-sex couples who choose to make a lifetime commitment to each other should not be discriminated against.”

California last year joined a growing number of states which explicitly reject the concept of “gay marriage,” with voters passing by 60 percent a law recognizing marriage as valid only between a man and a woman.

State Sen. William “Pete” Knight, the conservative Republican who spearheaded the drive to ban gay marriage, said the new Koretz bill was sure to run into considerable opposition.

“It appears Assemblyman Koretz is trying to circumvent Proposition 22,” Knight said. “It may be illegal. If that doesn’t undermine marriage, I don’t know what does.”

Like the Vermont measure, the new California bill would grant gay and lesbian couples the right to share title on a house, file joint tax returns, sue for wrongful death and make decisions on behalf of their partner in the event of a medical emergency.

The measure would also allow gay and lesbian California couples to apply for a license from their county clerk and have their union certified by a justice of the peace, a judge, or clergy member.

The bill was quickly supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which said a ban on gay unions was analogous to earlier U.S. bans on interracial marriage.

“When the state grants some families protections and rights, but denies them to an entire other class of families — just as it does in excluding gay and lesbian families from the protections of over 300 state laws and over 1,000 federal laws — it both imperils and insults those families,” said Silvia Argueta, a board member of the ACLU of Southern California.

The ACLU also noted that, even if passed, Koretz’s bill would not put gay unions on a completely equal footing with heterosexual marriages as it would not grant them the rights and responsibilities derived from federal law or the right to have their unions recognized in other states.

For more information on the issue of same gender relationships, visit the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights web page at http://archive.aclu.org/issues/gay/hmgl.html.

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