California became the first legislative body in the United States to approve same-sex marriage bill. State Senate voted on Thursday to allow homosexuals to marry.
The Senate approved the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act — which would make marriage a civil contract between two people rather than a man and a woman — by the minimum number of necessary votes, 21-15.
The 21-15 vote sets the stage for a showdown next week in the California Assembly, which narrowly rejected a gay marriage bill in June, according to Xinhua.
"Equality is equality, period," said one of the bill's supporters, Democratic Sen. Liz Figueroa. "When I leave this Legislature, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren I stood up for dignity and rights for all."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office had no comment Thursday on how the governor would respond if the bill reached his desk, spokeswoman Margita Thompson said.
"The governor believes that the people spoke when they passed Proposition 22, and now it went to the courts and that's where it should be," she said. "The governor will abide by what the courts rule."
Opponents of gay marriage decried the vote as a repudiation of the will of the electorate, which five years ago passed Proposition 22 declaring that California would only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. They said that legislators cannot undo a law passed by 61 percent of the public without putting it before the electorate again, Boston Globe reports.
These efforts come as the state's appellate courts weigh whether to uphold a San Francisco judge's ruling in March that the state's current marriage law illegally discriminates. The case is expected to reach the California Supreme Court next year.
Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, Margita Thompson, said that although the governor supports domestic partnerships, he did not agree with legislatively allowing gay marriage.