Assembly Bill 25, which was passed with little media attention, would give 13 new marriage-type rights to California´s "domestic partners," a category which includes homosexual couples and elderly heterosexual couples, the National Catholic Register reported.
Governor Gray Davis indicated he will sign the legislation, spokeswoman Hilary McLean said. He has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill, and some pro-family groups are trying a last-minute bid to stop the legislation.
Noting that the bill contradicts the 61% of California voters who OK´d last year´s Defense of Marriage referendum, the pro-family activists have delivered 15,000 petitions to the governor asking him to veto the measure.
Karen Holgate, a pro-family lobbyist with the Capital Resource Institute, said the bill "equates domestic partners with spouses and blood relatives."
Among other things, the bill would enable a domestic partner to adopt a partner´s child; file wrongful death or negligence suits if a partner dies; and receive coverage for disability, hospital, medical or surgical expenses if a partner has group health coverage. A partner could also inherit property from a deceased partner.
Rep. Carole Midgen, a San Francisco Democrat, authored the bill. Her Web site gives the bill´s requirements:
"Domestic partners must be adults, unmarried, and unrelated by blood. Domestic Partners must also be members of the same sex, unless both parties are senior citizens. Same sex domestic partners must simply be over 18 years of age. In order for an opposite sex couple to register as domestic partners, both individuals must also be over the age of 62 and either eligible for Social Security pension benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as an aged individual."
Holgate, whose organization is affiliated with Focus on the Family, sees this as a first step to full-fledged homosexual marriage. She said activists have said that "they will not stop until they get gay marriage in California."
Robin Todolsky, a spokesman for Sheila Kuehl, a Los Angeles Democrat, a homosexual who supported the new bill, said that "Sen. Kuehl, in principle, is in favor of civil unions" -- the marriagelike arrangement legalized in Vermont. But she added that the senator "wouldn´t want to force it."
Todolsky said she already sees sentiment shifting, noting that several religious denominations already bless homosexual marriage. "Two adults in possession of their faculties ought to have that commitment supported by the state just as other unions are," he said.
Carol Hogan, a spokeswoman for the California Catholic Conference, said that the state´s bishops opposed this legislation and sent three letters to lawmakers highlighting their concerns.
These concerns, she said, were centered on "the sanctity of marriage." Hogan also said the bishops "will continue to oppose such legislation" in the future.
The California Legislature also recently approved a bill allowing women to obtain "morning-after" pills without a prescription.
Supporters expect the governor to sign the legislation, which would make California the second state to permit pharmacists to dispense the prescription medication to women who haven´t first seen a doctor. Washington was the first state to do so.
The legislation had broad support in the medical community and was endorsed by organizations representing the state´s doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Opposing it was the California Right to Life Committee, which notes that the pill can cause early abortions by preventing a days-old developing human being from attaching to the womb.
"We´re very concerned that girls can get these pills without their parents being there or knowing about it," said Camille Giglio, director of the state Right to Life organization. Concerns about parental notification led the Virginia Legislature to defeat a similar bill earlier this year.