California’s Senate has defied the US President George Bush by voting to legislate for gay marriages.

Although many areas in the USA do offer some form of Gay marriage, this is the first time that a State Senate has passed a bill legalising same-sex marriages. The bill passed with 21 votes compared to 15 votes from those opposing moves.

The state has six gay senators including Democrat Senator Sheila Kuehl, she said, “Gay and lesbian people fall in love. We settle down. We commit our lives to one another. We raise our children. We protect them. We try to be good citizens.”

“Equality is equality, period,” Senator Liz Figueroa told the AP news agency. “When I leave this Legislature, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren I stood up for dignity and rights for all.”

Republican Senator Dennis Hollingsworth was one of the 15 Senators who opposed the bill, he said that the Senators should have sought to “protect traditional marriage and hold all of those values and institutions that have made our society and keep our society together today.”

The bill will legalise same sex unions but it will not force the marriages onto religious groups who oppose the move. Members of the clergy will be able to refuse to marry a gay couple without fear of prosecution due to their “right to free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the California Constitution.”

The bill does not become law until it is signed by the state’s Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite him being a Republican supporter of the President (who opposes Gay marriages), it is expected that he will approve the legislation.