California State Senator Roy Ashburn,
recently Republican from Bakersfield who is becoming increasingly
outspoken on gay rights, has asked Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
to veto a bill that protects clergy opposed to gay marriage.
The bill, sponsored by openly gay
Senator Mark Leno and supported by Equality California, the state's
largest gay rights advocate, was approved earlier this month by the
Assembly in a 46 to 25 vote. Senators reaffirmed their support for
the bill with a 22-11 concurrence vote Wednesday.
The Civil Marriage Religious Freedom
Act says religious organizations could not be stripped of their
tax-exempt status if their clergy refuse to perform any civil
marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith.
Ashburn says he agrees that religious
freedoms should be protected, but notes such protections are already
in place under existing state law and the U.S. Constitution.
Ashburn says in
a letter addressed to Schwarzenegger that he shared with On
Top Magazine that he objects to the bill because it would
create “second class” marriages for gay and lesbian couples.
“The major change under this bill
would be the creation of a new class of marriages. SB 906 seeks to
redefine the definition of marriage by inserting the word 'civil'
before the word 'marriage' throughout state statute.”
“What I seek is full, equal marriage
rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation,” Ashburn
added. “SB 906 is clearly less than full marriage equality and
therefore, I respectfully ask for your veto.”
A federal court's ruling that declared
California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, unconstitutional is
currently on appeal.