Calif. Gay Marriage Bill Sent to Governor

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The California Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill recognizing gay marriages performed in California. Last week, the state Senate approved the legislation. Now the bill is heading to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has hinted he'll veto the measure.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

The California Assembly last night approved a bill to legalize gay marriage. It makes California's Legislature the first in the nation to do so. Tamara Keith of member station KPCC reports from Sacramento.

TAMARA KEITH reporting:

California is well-known for its liberal leanings, but even in California, this vote didn't come easily. The bill passed with the bare minimum, 41 votes, all cast by Democrats. An identical measure had failed earlier this year, but the author, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, himself gay, brought it back and twisted several arms to get the votes he needed.

Mr. MARK LENO (Democrat, California Assembly): For those who didn't understand, many now do, and for those who don't yet understand, their time will come, because this is right.

KEITH: A lot of people disagree with that assessment. Five years ago, California voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative stating that marriage is between one man and one woman. Arguing on the Assembly floor, Republican Ray Haynes called gay marriage a social experiment, a risky one.

Mr. RAY HAYNES (Republican, California Assembly): We don't know what will happen. We have no idea. We are rolling the dice and taking a huge gamble and we are gambling with the lives and the futures of generations not yet born.

KEITH: The bill now heads to Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And while still celebrating their victory outside of the Assembly chambers, gay marriage advocates, including Stuart Gaffney and his partner, were already planning to lobby the governor.

Mr. STUART GAFFNEY (Lobbyist): You know, today's a beautiful day because the Legislature said all Californians are gonna be treated equally, and we just need the governor to say that's OK.

KEITH: Schwarzenegger has not said whether he plans to sign or veto the bill, but he has said this is an issue best handled by the people or the courts, not the Legislature. The governor has 30 days to make up his mind.

For NPR News, I'm Tamara Keith in Sacramento.

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