California governor signs bill making state's marriage law gender-neutral

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Monday signed into law [press release] a bill that will change the language in California's marriage code [text] to accommodate same-sex couples. The bill [SB 1306], introduced by California Senator Mark Leno [official website], proposes that all state-statutory references to opposite-gender couples, such as "husband" and "wife," be modified to apply to same-sex couples as well. SB 1306 comments on the California Constitution's "unenforceable" provision [text] that marriage only be between a man and woman but only addresses similar language in the state's family code relating to marriage. Among the new amendments will be the modification of "marriage" from "a personal relationship ... between a man and a woman" to a "personal relation ... between 2 persons." Also, the new law will lift all current restrictions limiting the state's recognition of same-sex marriages that occurred in other states. Further, any references to "husband" or "wife" will be removed from the state marriage code and replaced with gender-neutral terms such as "spouse" or "married persons." The revisions will make California's marriage law compatible with recent court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. According [press release] to Leno, the legislation "removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender."

California's marriage law update is the latest legislative action in the state's protracted legal battle over same-sex marriage. Last August the Supreme Court of California ended the last legal challenge [JURIST report] to same-sex marriage in the state by refusing to revive Proposition 8 (Prop 8), the state's now-defunct law banning same-sex marriage. The previous month, San Diego County petitioned [JURIST report] California's supreme court seeking to require certain county clerks to enforce Prop 8, arguing that the US Supreme Court's June 2013 decision [JURIST report] upholding the repeal of Prop 8 only applied to two of the state's 58 counties. Just hours after the court decision, Brown directed [JURIST report] that all California counties be instructed to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who request them. In August 2010, the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled [JURIST report] that Prop 8 violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.

 

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