'Between a Man and a Woman' to Be Deleted from California Law Books

Wedding cake
An outdated statute in California's Family Code still recognizes that marriage is 'between a man and a woman.' On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown took steps to sign into law legislation that would include gender-neutral language for same-sex couples. | Photo: Adam Lederer/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to ensure that language used in California's code books reflect the right of same-sex couples to marry. The law, Senate Bill 1306, will replace terms of traditional marriage like "husband" and "wife" and ascribe non-discriminatory, gender-neutral language, such as using "spouse."

"What this law will do is it will catch up our state law and statutes so they are in line with last year's Supreme Court decision, which restored the right to marry in California," said Steve Roth, spokesperson for Equality California, which supported the bill.

The changes in language to the codified law will make it clearer for courts, state agencies, and individuals to understand that all spouses in California -- regardless of gender -- have the same rights, explained Catherine Sakimura, family law director and supervising attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "There are several places where the statutes explaining the process of entering a marriage use gendered phrases, and these are changed to be gender neutral."

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The bill, introduced by Senator Mark Leno, will also delete two sections in the Family Code, which first saw the phrase "between a man and a woman" in 1977. 23 years later, another section clearly defining marriage between a man and a woman was added after Proposition 22 was approved by voters.

"Both of these statutes were struck down as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in response to marriage cases, but have remained on the books," said Sakimura.

The California State Constitution, however, will continue to define marriage as "between a man and a woman." That language -- put into place by voters approving Proposition 8 in 2008 -- will still remain until it is challenged by voters and re-introduced as a possible ballot initiative.

SB 1306 will become law on January 1, 2015.

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