The California Legislature made history Tuesday as the Assembly passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
With no votes to spare, California's lawmakers became the first in the United States to act without a court order to sanction gay marriages. The measure was approved after three Democratic lawmakers who abstained on a similar proposal that failed in June changed their minds under intense lobbying by bill author Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and gay and civil rights activists.
No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Forty-one of the Assembly's 47 Democrats voted yes; four Democrats voted "no," and two abstained.
The bill, which would change California's legal definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to a "civil contract between two persons," now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has signaled that he will veto it.
Tuesday's vote came after 23 lawmakers addressed the chamber, many of them focusing on the historic element of their action, others relating intensely personal stories.
In a moment of high drama, with dozens of gay rights supporters watching from the gallery, Simon Salinas (D-Salinas) hesitated for several seconds as the tally hung at 40 "ayes" — one short of passage. Then, having promised Leno months ago that he would not let the bill fail, Salinas pressed the "aye" button on his desk, making the final vote 41-35, reported Los Angeles Times.