Senators in California approved a bill late Wednesday that recognizes gay and lesbian marriages performed outside the state prior to November 5, 2008.

Senator Mark Leno, an openly gay Democrat from San Francisco, introduced SB 54, which was sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), the state's largest gay rights advocate. Senators favored the bill in a 23 to 14 vote. The bill was passed in the Assembly earlier in the month.

Voters approved Proposition 8, the voter-initiated constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in the Golden State, by a narrow margin on November 4. The California Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the amendment but allowed gay and lesbian marriages performed during the June-to-November “summer of love” to stand. The bill clarifies the ruling by including out-of-state gay marriages.

"When California offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2008, spouses who were already married in another state or country were prohibited from re-marrying in California," Senator Leno said. "Now those couples and their families are in limbo because their rights and protections under law are not clear. This legislation ensures that same-sex couples are protected by existing California law that recognizes all marriages equally, regardless of where they are performed."

“We are grateful that our elected leaders have passed this vital bill, which provides much needed clarity for same-sex couples married out of state who deserve to know where their families stand,” said Geoff Kors, executive director for EQCA, in a statement.

The social conservative group California Family Council (CFC), which supports the gay marriage ban, is urging California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the measure, and has called the bill “unconstitutional.”

“The people of California are sovereign, and the language of Proposition 8 is clear regarding the people's intent,” Ron Prentice, director of CFC, said in a statement. “However, California's current Legislature will continue to attempt to weaken the laws set forth by the people.”

Prentice also serves as the chairman of, the group behind the gay marriage ban.