US: Californian law makes marriage gender-neutral

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State law in California is to formally acknowledge the current legality of same-sex marriage, by replacing references to marriage as only being “between a man and a woman”.

Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Monday which will replace references to ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ with a gender-neutral term, ‘spouse’, in the state’s Family Code.

The Code currently states (Section 300a) that marriage “is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman”, and goes on to state (Section 308.5): “Only marriage between a man and a woman is recognised in California”.

This has been inaccurate since June 2013, after the US Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8, thereby reinstating a 2008 law allowing same-sex marriages to take place.

The new gender-neutral legislation was introduced by San Francisco’s Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat. It was passed by the State Senate in May by a vote of 25 to 10.

“I am pleased Governor Brown has recognized the importance of this bill, which makes it explicitly clear in state law that every loving couple has the right to marry in California,” said Sen. Leno in a statement.

“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender.”

The new law will also remove limits on the state recognising the validity of out-of-state same-sex marriages. The changes will take effect from January next year.

“It’s important that we completely erase discrimination from the books,” said Rick Zbur, executive director-elect of Equality California, which is one of the organisations which co-sponsored the bill.

He added: “This new law will take us one step further in that journey. We applaud Senator Leno for authoring this important legislation and Gov. Brown for signing it.”

Last October, Governor Brown signed legislation to make it easier for transgender people to change their legal name and gender. That law came into effect last week.