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Same-sex marriage

Bill AB-1967: "California Marriage
License Nondiscrimination Act,

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Bill AB 1967, the "California Marriage License Nondiscrimination Act," was accepted by a vote of 8 to 3 by the California Assembly's Judiciary Committee on 2004-APR-20. This is the first time in the U.S. that a committee of a state legislature has voted in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples on its own without having been ordered to do so by a court. The nearest precedence occurred many decades earlier when some state legislatures voted to allow inter-racial couples to marry.

According to PlanetOut.com:

"AB 1967 has been endorsed by a number of groups, including the ACLU, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the California Teachers Association, Lambda Legal, Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club of Orange County and a dozen local chapters of PFLAG." 15

It is generally opposed by religious and social conservatives."

Steps leading up to Bill AB-1967:

On 2000-MAR-7, California voters passed Proposition 22, by a vote of 61.4% to 38.6%. 1 The Proposition states that: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." 2 The meaning of this sentence seems obvious at first. However, there is no consensus on its precise interpretation:

  • Some gay and lesbian-positive groups believe that it applies only to marriages made outside the state.
  • Some observers, particularly those from fundamentalist Christian groups, believe that it absolutely prohibits any sort of recognition of same-sex relationships by the state. Further, it prohibits the legislature from granting any benefits to such couples and their children.
  • The majority opinion is that the Proposition refers to all marriages in California, whether solemnized in the state or elsewhere. However, it would not prohibit the legislature from enacting civil union legislation and/or granting specific state benefits normally restricted to opposite-sex married couples.

Propositions do not have the same status as constitutional amendments. They only have the force of legislation. They can be subsequently modified or overturned by laws generated by the state legislature.

Recognition of same-sex couples has evolved at a rapid pace in California since that time:

  • 2001-MAR-29: An amended Bill AB 1338 was introduced to extend about 400 benefits to registered domestic partners. These are routinely granted to married couples. The bill was never passed.
  • 2001-OCT-15: Bill AB-25 became law. It granted registered domestic partners only nine of the 400 state benefits mentioned above. None of the 1,069 federal benefits were included.
  • 2003-SEP-19: Bill AB-205 became law, but will not come into effect on 2005-JAN-1. Registered domestic partners and their children will receive all of the 400 or so state benefits that are now automatically given to married couples.

The next logical step was for same-sex couples and their supporters to seek the right to marry in the state.

Bill AB 1967; 2004-APR-20:

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who is gay, introduced Bill AB 1967 to the California Assembly's Judiciary Committee. It is formally know as the "California Marriage License Nondiscrimination Act." Its shorter title is: "The Gender-Neutral Marriage Act."

If it becomes law, the bill would change Section 300 of the California Marriage Code, substituting:

Section Current wording Proposed wording
300 a "Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman..." "Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between two persons..."
301 "An unmarried male of the age of 18 years or older, and an unmarried female of the age of 18 years or older, not otherwise disqualified, are capable of consenting to and consummating marriage." "Two unmarried persons of the age of 18 years or older who are not otherwise disqualified, are capable of consenting to and consummating marriage."
302 "An unmarried "male or female under the age of 18 years is capable of consenting to and consummating marriage if...." "An unmarried person under the age of 18 years is capable of consenting to and consummating marriage if..."

In addition, it would add a new section 300 (b): "Where necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses under the law, gender-specific terms shall be construed to be gender-neutral, except with respect to Section 308.5." 3

These changes would require the state to issue marriage licenses and register the marriages of all qualifying couples, both those of the same-sex and opposite sex. Same-sex couples, and their children, would then be able to marry, have their marriages registered by the state, and receive the full benefits previously restricted to opposite-sex married couples.


A lesbian couple, Lancy Woo and Cristy Chung, the lead plaintiffs in the San Francisco same-sex marriage lawsuit, testified in favor of the bill. They have been together for 16 years and have a five year old daughter Olivia. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) web site states that: "During her testimony, Cristy talked about the discrimination faced by her parents because they were an interracial couple, including opposition from family members and others who opposed their marriage. 'My parents' struggle and the struggle of Lancy and I to get married are not that different,' Cristy noted. Cristy said she hoped that their daughter would be able to grow up in a world where there are many families with same-sex married parents." 4

Johnny Symons and William Rogers also testified in support of the bill. They have been together for a decade and have two children, ages 2 and 4.

"Also testifying in support of the bill were Shannon Minter, 'NCLR's' Legal Director, Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of 'Equality California,' and Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, the author of A.B. 205." 4

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The committee vote:

The bill was passed by the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8 to 3 on 2004-APR-20:

  • Those in favor: Ellen M. Corbett, Chair (D-18), Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-35), Darrell Steinberg (D-9), John Longville (D-62), Sally J. Lieber (D-22), John Laird (D-27), Lloyd Levine (D-40), Cindy Monta©ez (D-39).
  • Those opposed: Tom Harman, Vice Chair (R-67), Todd Spitzer (R-71), Patricia C. Bates (R-73). "5"

The vote strictly followed party lines with all Democratic members of the committee voting in favor and all Republican members opposed.

The vote had been expected to be close. The testimony given at the hearing may have influenced some Democrats to switch their vote. Some had previously indicated that they were leaning towards voting against the bill.

Support for, and opposition to, the bill:

According to the National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Centers, AB 1967 has been endorsed by individual Christian clergy from Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ denominations. It was endorsed by the Board of Directors of the Northern California/Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. "In addition, several California cities and counties have either endorsed AB 1967, or supported the concept of marriage equality for same sex couples. Those local governments include; Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and West Hollywood. Finally, it is worth noting that AB 1967 already has one sponsor and 18 cosponsors. That is almost one quarter of the whole Assembly." "7"

On the day before the vote, 40 clergy representing the California Council of Churches and various ministers from congregations associated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, Baptist groups, United Methodist Church, and Metropolitan Community Church had a prayer breakfast at the Capitol. They later lobbied lawmakers in support of Leno's bill. Geoffrey Kors, spokesperson for Equality California, said: "Each and every religion should have the right to determine for themselves what marriages they want to solemnize and the State, in authorizing religious leaders to perform marriages, should recognize the marriages performed by religious leaders regardless of the gender of the individuals involved....When the State refuses to recognize the marriages performed by leaders of certain faiths it is doing nothing less than condoning discrimination against the couples and the religions who married them." "8"

Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian group, stated that: "Pro-family analysts believe the legislation has a decent chance of passing the Assembly and the Senate." "9" (To Focus, a "pro-family analyst" is one who is opposed to the recognition of -- and benefits for -- all families led by same-sex couples).

Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California said: "This is an incredible victory not only for California©s lesbian and gay couples and their children but for all people who believe in equal rights. The Committee today voted to return California to the definition of marriage that existed before 1977, when the legislature changed it from a contract between 'two people' to a contract between 'a man and a woman.' That law is the only remaining law in California enacted by this body that affirmatively discriminates against a protected group of Californians." "5"

Karen Holgate, spokesperson for the fundamentalist Christian California Family Council, said the results of the vote were surprising to many observers. She said: "It was quite obvious that the author of the bill had worked very closely with several pro-homosexual groups. The room was packed with same-sex couples...and only about 30 in opposition were there because they did not have the notification that the other side did." Ms Holgate also noted that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "10" had opposed same-sex marriage during his candidacy. During 2004-MAR. on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," he said that he opposed a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would restrict marriage to one man and one woman. But he indicated that he was open to amending California marriage law.

Randy Thomassaon, executive director of the Campaign for California Families said: "AB 1967 utterly rejects the vote of the people. AB 1967 is corrupt and any legislator who votes for it is corrupt too... [It is] "is illegal, unconstitutional and immoral." Later, he added: "It is strange that the Democrats would risk losing seats in the Legislature over an issue that is so unpopular. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is to blame for giving permission for his Democrat colleagues to push for homosexual 'marriage' and reject everybody who believes that marriage is for a man and a woman. Does Nunez want people to understand that voting for Democrats now means voting for homosexual 'marriage'?" " 11 He wrote a guest column for the web site of Good News, etc., a fundamentalist Christian newspaper. It said in part: "AB 1967 would completely destroy the uniqueness of the sacred institution of marriage for a man and a woman. Leno wants to create full-blown homosexual 'marriage,' impose it upon the entire state, and completely overturn the vote of the people that demanded the law protect the natural design of marriage for a man and a woman....Marriage between a man and a woman is basic truth that is self-evident." 12"

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council issued a statement saying, in part: "Should this legislation reach his desk, it will give the Governor the opportunity to show respect for the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Californians who oppose tinkering with marriage. Just as the people came together last year to put Gov. Schwarzenegger into office, they came together in 2000 to protect marriage....If they make a right for any two adults who love each other to 'marry,' they will have opened the door to polygamy, inter-familial relationships, and a whole host of other arrangements of adults who say they love each other. In light of their vote on Prop. 22, I don't think that's the road Californians want to go down." "11"

"Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) said: "This is an historic day. This vote demonstrates that our elected officials understand the unfairness of denying an entire class of people hundreds of important rights and responsibilities, and relegating them to second class status."" "10"

Status of bill AB-1967:

The California Assembly's Appropriations Committee considered the bill because it would have financial implications to the state budget. Treating same-sex couples as equivalent to opposite-sex couples would extend to the former benefits currently enjoyed on by the latter. Many of these benefits involve a cost to the state. On May 12, 2004, the Committee placed the bill in suspense, pending the committee©s review of a UCLA study showing that permitting same-sex couples to marry will save the state millions of dollars annually. "14 On 2004-MAY-19, sponsors and supporters of the bill announced that they were pulling the bill from committee consideration in the hopes of building support for it later in 2004. A similar bill was introduced in 2005.

Other pending legislation:

Mark Worrall of the 365Gay.com Newscenter stated on 2004-APR-20 that:

"Two other pieces of LGBT civil rights legislation also will be heard this week in Assembly policy committees. The Insurance Equality Act by Assembly Member Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) will make it clear that registered domestic partners should be treated equally to married couples under the law. Also, the Labor and Employment Omnibus Act by Assembly Member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) will standardize labor and employment non-discrimination provisions to make them consistent with the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)." "8"


  1. "California Proposition 22," Marriage Watch, at: http://www.marriagewatch.org/
  2. "Text of Proposition 22," California Secretary of State, at: http://primary2000.ss.ca.gov/
  3. "Bill Number AB 1967, Introduced: Bill Text," at: http://info.sen.ca.gov/
  4. "NCLR Clients Testify in Favor of Historic Marriage Equality Bill; California Assembly Judiciary Committee Votes 8-3 in Favor of Bill," "National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2004-APR-20, at: http://www.nclrights.org/"
  5. ""Assembly Committee passes equality California's historic marriage bill," EastBay Voice, 2004-APR-20, at: http://www.eastbayvoice.org/"
  6. Aurelio Rojas, "Panel approves bill to legalize gay marriage in California," Scripps Howard News Service, 2004-APR-20, at: http://www.shns.com/
  7. "Please Help Rescue AB 1967," NALGBTCC, 2004-APR-16, at: http://www.lgbtcenters.org/
  8. Mark Worrall, "Calif. churches Lobby for Gay Marriage," 2004-APR-20, at: http://www.marriageequalityca.org/feature_story.php This is apparently a temporary listing.
  9. Pete Winn, "Mixed News in West Coast Battle for Traditional Marriage," Citizenlink, 2004-APR-20. Online at: "at: http://www.family.org/"
  10. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a web site at: http://www.governor.ca.gov/. His office can be reached via Email at governor@governor.ca.gov , by telephone at (916) 445-2841, or by Fax at (916) 445-4633.
  11. Melanie Hunter, "California Assembly Committee Passes Same-Sex 'Marriage' Bill," CNS News, 2004-APR-21, at: http://www.cnsnews.com/
  12. "Randy Thomasson, "California's new threat to marriage," 2004-APR, at: http://www.goodnewsetc.com/"
  13. "Pete Winn, "Mixed News in West Coast Battle for Traditional Marriage," 2004-APR-20, Citizen Link, at: http://www.family.org/"
  14. ""California Couples Celebrate Historic Day for Marriage Equality in Massachusetts and Hope California Courts and Legislature Move Quickly To End Marriage Discrimination," National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2004-APR-28, at: http://www.aclunc.org/"
  15. ""Calif. same-sex marriage bill put on hold," PlanetOut.com, 2004-MAY-19, at: http://www.planetout.com/"

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Copyright © 2004 to 2008, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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