SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It got little attention, because it passed the California House and Senate in the week following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But a new legislative measure in California puts that state on the brink of okaying homosexual marriage.

Assembly Bill 25 would give 13 new marriagelike rights to California's “domestic partners,” a category which includes homosexual couples and elderly heterosexual couples. Gov. Gray Davis has until Oct. 14 to sign the measure, along with more than 800 other bills currently on his desk. The governor has indicated he will sign the domestic partners legislation, spokeswoman Hilary McLean told Knight Ridder.

Some pro-family groups are involved in an 11th-hour bid to stop the bill. Concerned that the bill contradicts the 61% of California voters who approved last year's Defense of Marriage referendum, they have delivered 15,000 petitions to the governor asking him to veto the measure, Knight Ridder reported.

Karen Holgate, a pro-family lobbyist with the Capital Resource Institute, said the bill “equates domestic partners with spouses and blood relatives.”

The bill would enable a domestic partner to:

E file wrongful death or negligence suits if a partner dies.

E adopt a partner's child.

E receive coverage for disability, hospital, medical or surgical expenses if a partner has group health coverage.

E become eligible for continued health coverage if a partner is a public employee and dies.

E file disability claims on behalf of a partner if he or she is mentally unable to file such claims.

E act as a surrogate to make personal health care decision for a partner under circumstances as defined by law.

E make health care decisions for a seriously injured or ill partner.

E be treated the same as a spouse in a statutory will.

E inherit property from a d-ceased partner.

Rep. Carole Midgen, DSan Francisco, authored the bill. Her Web site gives the bill's requirements:

“Domestic partners must be adults, unmarried, and unrelated by blood. Domestic Partners must also be members of the same sex, unless both parties are senior citizens. Same sex domestic partners must simply be over 18 years of age. In order for an opposite sex couple to register as domestic partners, both individuals must also be over the age of 62 and either eligible for Social Security pension benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as an aged individual.”

Marriage Next?

Holgate, whose organization is affiliated with Focus on the Family, sees this as a first step to full-fledged homosexual marriage. She said activists have said that “they will not stop until they get gay marriage in California.”

Robin Todolsky, a spokesperson for Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, a homosexual who supported the new bill, said that “Sen. Kuehl, in principle, is in favor of civil unions” — the marriage-like arrangement legalized in Vermont. But she added that the senator “wouldn't want to force it.”

Last year, 61% of Californians voted for Proposition 22, the Defense of Marriage Initiative. “Before there can be legislation like [civil unions] there would have to be a change in the voters,” said Todolsky. But she thinks such a change and such legislation “probably will happen.”

Todolsky said she already sees sentiment shifting, noting that several religious denominations already bless homosexual marriage. “Two adults in possession of their faculties ought to have that commitment supported by the state just as other unions are,” he said.

It's not that simple, said psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, known for helping homosexuals embrace a heterosexual life.

“We don't want to decrease the civil rights of people,” he said, but the legislation is dangerous because “the psychological message, especially to young people, is that this is a normal, natural alternative [to marriage].”

In fact, he said, homosexual partnerships very rarely last, and homosexuals have high rates of depression and early deaths.

“The gay lifestyle has much more pathology, much more maladjustment,” he said.

In addition to the increased likelihood of diseases, Nicolosi says that “It is self- deceiving and leads to much more unhappiness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, group sex, [etc.] … Not all [of these problems] are because society is ‘homophobic’ it's intrinsic to the lifestyle.”

Karen Holgate said the sanctity of marriage as such is under attack. She said that legislation like AB 25 is trying to “marginalize marriage as a ‘religious’ institution” by “providing equal rights for domestic partners.”

Carol Hogan, a spokeswoman for the California Catholic Conference, said that California's bishops opposed this legislation and sent three letters to lawmakers highlighting their concerns.

These concerns, she said, were centered on “the sanctity of marriage.” Hogan also said that the bishops “will continue to oppose such legislation” in the future.