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WILSON VETOES BILL EXTENDING RIGHTS TO UNMARRIED PARTNERS

Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a measure that would have given unmarried partners some of the rights afforded married couples and approved a bill allowing women to wear pants at work.

The domestic partners measure would have been the first such state law in the nation.Supporters said it would help elderly couples who do not get married for fear of losing Social Security or pension benefits. Opponents said it sought to advance the homosexual lifestyle, although it would have applied to heterosexual couples as well.

In a statement released Sunday, Wilson said government has an obligation to adopt policies that "encourage and reward marriage and the formation of strong families."

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Richard Katz, called the governor's veto message "paranoia, right-wing rhetoric."

"It's the difference between a leader and an also-ran, and it's sad that he didn't have the guts to stand up for what's right," said Katz, who promised to reintroduce the measure at the start of the next legislative session.

Of the 10.4 million households in California, nearly 500,000 consist of unmarried couples, according to the 1990 Census. More than 90 percent of them are opposite-sex couples.

The bill required domestic partners who register with the state to share a primary residence, be over 18 and swear that they share basic expenses and aren't married or related by blood in any way that would prevent them from marrying.

If they met the criteria, the couples would be allowed to have hospital visitation rights, bequeath property to each other and act on behalf of each other should one become incapacitated.