New law updates state code to use gender-neutral marriage terms

Cynthia Wides, Elizabeth Carey
Cynthia Wides, right, and Elizabeth Carey file for a marriage certificate at City Hall in San Francisco on June 29, 2013. A new law will change state code to use gender-neutral terms for marriage.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Monday a measure that would update state law to reflect that same-sex marriage is legal in California, including replacing “husband” or “wife” with the gender-neutral term “spouse." 

The state resumed issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples--and recognizing same-sex marriages from out of state--in June 2013. But references to marriage as a union “between a man and a woman” have remained in the state’s Family Code.

The legislation, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), strikes that reference from the books and updates the law with gender-neutral terms to apply to same-sex marriages as well as heterosexual ones.

“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,” Leno said in a statement.


“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender.”

The bill, SB 1306, was co-sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris and gay rights groups such as Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It was opposed by conservative groups including the California Family Council and the Concerned Women for America of California.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

Get our Essential California newsletter