California State Senator Roy Ashburn, the 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.