A week after the State Senate voted in favor of a same-sex marriage bill, the State Assembly approved the measure on Tuesday, making California the first state in the nation to pass a bill allowing gay marriage.
Though gay-rights supporters were loudly celebrating the victory in the gallery of the Assembly house in Sacramento, the party could be a brief one.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — who has said he accepts the idea of gay marriage — could veto the bill, according to The Associated Press, because of his belief that it is an issue that voters or the state courts should decide.
The 41-35 vote came after two earlier defeats of a same-sex marriage bill, which is now on its way to Schwarzenegger's desk (see "California Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill"). The governor's office had no comment when the bill passed the Senate last week, according to the AP.
"He will uphold whatever the court decides," spokeswoman Margita Thompson said Tuesday. A state appellate court is considering appeals of a lower court ruling that overturned California laws banning recognition of gay marriages.
Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage are trying to get initiatives on the 2006 ballot that would amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriages.
While the bill's supporters compared it to such past civil-rights victories as the effort to end slavery, opponents repeatedly brought up the vote five years ago to approve Proposition 22, which prohibits California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
"History will record that you betrayed your constituents and their moral and ethical values," said Republican Assemblyman Jay La Suer. Same-sex couples in California already have many of the rights and duties of marriage if they register with the state as domestic partners (see "California Court Rules Gay Couples Liable For Child Support").
Randy Thomasson, president of the conservative Campaign for Children and Families, which opposed the bill, said Schwarzenegger should veto it.
"Schwarzenegger can't afford to sign the gay marriage license bill," Thomasson said. "He'll actually become a hero to the majority of Californians when he vetoes it."
Supporters countered that Tuesday's vote showed that gay rights advocates have "turned the corner on the issue of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples," Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, told the AP.
"As the debate today shows, love conquers fear, principle conquers politics and equality conquers injustice, and the governor can now secure his legacy as a true leader by signing this bill," Kors said.
Vermont began offering civil unions in 2000 and Massachusetts' highest court ruled in 2003 that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry, paving the way for the country's first state-sanctioned, same-sex weddings, which began taking place in May 2004.