(CNSNews.com) - As a vote on a California domestic partners bill approaches, a pro-family group is ratcheting up its effort to defeat the measure, complaining it would overrule a citizen referendum protecting marriage between a man and a woman.
The Campaign for California Families is targeting 12 Democrat legislators in the state Assembly who hold the deciding votes. This past week, it took aim at two assemblymen in central California.
The domestic partners bill grants homosexuals additional rights and responsibilities. It doesn't go as far as marriage, but for conservatives, it's too close for comfort.
"If you give all the rights of marriage that the California Legislature can deliver to domestic partners, that's homosexual marriage. There's no two ways about it," said Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families.
Thomasson's group is centering its efforts on Assemblymen Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga) and Simon Salinas (D-Salinas). The two Democrats represent parts of California's central coast, an area Thomasson said overwhelmingly voted for the Protection of Marriage Initiative.
More than 61 percent of California voters approved the measure, Proposition 22, in 2000. Now, Thomasson said, legislators are disregarding the vote.
Cohn has become a target as a result of her campaign for a California Senate seat. Her opponent, Assemblyman Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), opposes the bill and has signed a Marriage Protection Pledge, which vows to "uphold the pro-marriage, pro-child spirit of Proposition 22."
Thomasson acknowledged that Cohn's candidacy for the newly created Senate seat makes her a more appealing legislator to go after. Several pro-family activists gathered in Monterey County last week asking that Californians write or call her office to express opposition to the bill.
But Cohn's office downplayed Thomasson's classification of her as a "deciding vote" and said she hasn't wavered in her support for the domestic partners bill. Letters have streamed into her office - both in favor of and opposed to the legislation.
"I am absolutely against discrimination and persecution of any kind, period," Cohn said in a statement.
As for Salinas, he is being targeted for his likely intention to run for the state Senate in 2006, Thomasson said. Incumbent Sen. Jeffrey Denham (R-Salinas), like Maldonado, has signed the Marriage Protection Pledge.
Salinas couldn't be reached for comment Monday, but he told the Monterey County Herald last week that he hadn't made up his mind.
"I will reserve my judgment until I hear the entire floor debate," he told the newspaper. "But the Campaign for California Families should know by now that I don't respond well to bullying."
Thomasson wouldn't disclose the names of the other legislators he claims hold the "swing votes." The bill was scheduled to be voted on this week after winning approval from the Judiciary Committee, but the Appropriations Committee decided to hold a hearing May 28.
The full Assembly must vote on the measure by June 6 for it to advance.
For the more than 70 organizations and 900 people who have signed on as supporters, the bill is viewed as a significant piece of legislation.
"It's really about equity," said Janet L. Stanley, executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation. "It certainly isn't marriage, it's domestic partners, but we are moving in the right direction."
In California, homosexuals can register as domestic partners, but they only receive limited rights. Under the bill, they would enjoy greater benefits but not be afforded the same rights as married couples are under federal law or the California Constitution.
Stanley said it's unfortunate that many of the groups that lobbied for Proposition 22 - claiming at the time they favored domestic partnerships rather than marriage for homosexuals - are taking aim at this bill.
"Now that the state is moving in that direction, these very same people are opposing the bill," she said. "Even if it were to pass, I still cannot be married. I still don't have the right to be married. And yet, I pay all the same taxes. I am accountable to the same legal system, and yet my partner and I still cannot get married."
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