SACRAMENTO — After a long emotional debate involving scripture and hardball politics, the Assembly approved a bill Wednesday that would give new rights to domestic partners.
The bill would expand the legal rights granted to gay and senior couples who register with the state as domestic partners under a 1999 state law.
The 43-29 vote came despite an intense campaign of television, radio and newspaper ads and mailed brochures by a conservative religious group aimed at pressuring 17 mostly minority lawmakers to oppose the bill.
The Campaign for California Families’ campaign said the bill is part of the “radical homosexual agenda” and would undermine Proposition 22, the initiative approved by voters in 2000 that outlaws gay marriages.
The campaign only angered several of the targeted lawmakers.
“It does them no good to try to intimidate me because I do not get intimidated,” said Assemblyman George Nakano, D-Torrance.
The two-hour debate included personal stories and religious lectures. Supporters said the bill was a matter of equal rights, while opponents said it was an attempt to get around Proposition 22.
The current domestic partner law allows same-sex partners and unmarried straight couples over 62 to register with the secretary of state; 14,000 couples have done so.
However, that law gave those couples only the right to visit each other in a hospital and get health benefits if one partner is a public employee.
The new rights in the bill include the ability to adopt a partner’s child more easily, to get health and disability insurance coverage from private employers like married couples, to make medical treatment decisions for an incapacitated partner, to inherit if the partner dies without a will and to file wrongful-death lawsuits.
The bill would also allow opposite-sex couples where only one member is over 62 to register as domestic partners. Current law allows only opposite-sex couples where both partners are over 62.
Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, one of the Legislature’s four open lesbians, had trouble at first talking about what she called an intensely personal issue.
She told how her partner of 22 years was unable to adopt her son and how they had to scramble to find an attorney and witnesses when she suddenly was hospitalized and the hospital would not let her partner make medical decisions should she have become incapacitated.
She admitted she could have gotten that power of attorney before she became ill.
“Why should I have to? None of you do. You can be in your 14th marriage and each time you get what I can’t get after 22 years. Where is the justice in that?” said Goldberg, D-Los Angeles.
“There is no other group in this room, however discriminated against in the past, however enslaved, that has to beg, ’Treat me like a human being,”’ she said.
Many opponents, quoting from the Bible, said they could not support the bill because of their religious beliefs.
“It has to do with me being obedient to my God. I don’t understand why God said the homosexual condition is an abomination,” said Assemblyman Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley.
“This bill is a steppingstone to undermine marriage,” said Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia.
“This is not about marriage. This is not about the church,” said the author, Assemblyman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, also an open lesbian. “This is setting forth some equitable benefits for people who are deserving of it.”
The bill moves to the state Senate.
Gov. Gray Davis signed the 1999 bill, but does not yet have a position on the new bill, spokeswoman Hilary McLean said Wednesday.
On the Net: Read the bill, AB25, at http://www.sen.ca.gov
See the CCF’s ads at http://www.savecalifornia.com
Read the supporters’ side at http://www.calcape.orh