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Governor Signs Harvey Milk Day and Marriage Recognition Bills

(SACRAMENTO)– Today Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law two historic LGBT rights bills – recognizing the contributions of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk and a bill that underscores that same-sex couples married before the passage of Proposition 8 are entitled to full recognition as married spouses in California, regardless of whether they married in California or out of state. Both bills were sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and were introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). The bills were the top priority of EQCA, the state’s leading LGBT rights organization and were targeted by right wing anti-gay groups who worked to defeat the bills first in the legislature and then by urging the Governor to veto the measures.

“We are grateful to the Governor for signing these critical and groundbreaking measures into law and rising above partisan politics to improve the lives of LGBT Californians,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors.

The Harvey Milk Day bill marks the first time in the nation’s history that a state will officially recognize and celebrate the contributions of an openly LGBT person with an annual “day of special significance.”

“Californians will now learn about Harvey’s amazing contributions to the advancement of civil rights for decades to come,” Kors said. “He is a role model to millions, and this legislation will help ensure his legacy lives on forever.”

The Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act, also signed today, holds that same-sex couples married before the passage of Proposition 8 must be recognized as married spouses in California, regardless of whether they married in California or in another state or nation. In addition, the new statute also confirms that same-sex couples married outside of California after November 5, 2008, must be given all of the rights, protections and responsibilities of married spouses under California law, with the sole exception of the designation of "marriage."

"We are grateful that the Governor has signed this critical bill, which provides much needed protections for same-sex couples who have legally married out of state, or will in the future, and who deserve to be treated like any other married couple," Kors said. "This bill will allow same-sex couples to get married in other states and countries and ensure they are treated equally under the law when they return to California. Ultimately, however, restoring the freedom to marry is the only way to ensure that all Californians receive the dignity and respect that comes with marriage."

"When California offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2008, spouses who were already married in another state or country were prohibited from re-marrying in California," said Senator Leno. "Now those couples and their families are in limbo because their rights and protections under law are not clear. This new law will ensure that same-sex couples are protected by existing California law that recognizes all marriages equally, regardless of where they are performed."

The Governor also signed EQCA-sponsored legislation by Assemblymember John A. Pérez to help leverage funding for same-sex domestic violence services and vetoed two bills on the grounds that existing law and policy already provided the protections the bills sought to put into statute: the Equal ID Act, allowing transgender people to obtain new birth certificates and the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act, considering sexual orientation and gender identity to safely house prisoners.

Said Kors, "While we believe it is important to have these protections in statute rather than just as policy or court precedent and are disappointed by the vetoes, the Governor's reaffirmation of these policies will hopefully help ensure they are enforced.”