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Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Legalizes Gay Marriage

California Supreme Court overturns gay marriage ban

Associate Justice Carlos R. Moreno, Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard, Associate Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Associate Justice Ming W. Chin, Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter, and Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan.

In a 4-3 ruling, the justices rule that state marriage laws are unconstitutional.
By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 10:40 AM PDT, May 15, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.The state high court's 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.

The ruling
Same-sex weddings can't be, Presbyterians decide
Gay-marriage ban won't go to voters
Same-sex unions OKd by Assembly

The long-awaited court decision stemmed from San Francisco's highly publicized same-sex weddings, which in 2004 helped spur a conservative backlash in a presidential election year and a national dialogue over gay rights.Several states have since passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Today, 27 states have such amendments.The reaction to today's ruling outside the courthouse in San Francisco was one of jubilation as couples, once denied marriage, hugged, kissed, shouted and shook their fists at the sky. Holding up a sign that says, "Life feels different when you're married," Helen Pontac said she was beyond words.

"Oh, wow," she said. "It felt so good when we got married in San Francisco. This feels better."She hugged her partner Shelly Bailes. "The best day of my life was when I met Helen," Bailes said. "This was as good as that."Both women said they have been together for 34 years. Added Bailes, "This feels good for us. But I can't imagine what it means for all those young couples with their entire lives ahead of them."Pontac shook her fist at the sky. "We got a bottle of champagne on ice."A few feet away, Kate Kendell, executive director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, was mobbed by reporters and well-wishers."As of today, the right to marry is now guaranteed to anyone," she said. "All I know is that we won."At his home in Toluca Lake, Jim Smith a parent and part of a same-sex relationship, also rejoiced. "I'm ecstatic," said Smith, 40, chief technology officer for an online advertising agency. "I think this is the beginning of the end of ostracism, bullying, and all the things that used to make people feel less human than others."Opponents of same-sex-marriage had a much different reaction.Ron Prentice, executive director of the Sacramento and Riverside-based California Family Council, said the group was "not surprised by the ruling, though extremely disappointed."He said the group expects "that with the November ballot we will have the opportunity for the people of California to once again define marriage as only between a man and a woman and this time place it into California's constitution which would strengthen it and keep it out of the hands of the courts.""We have not been able to count on the legislature or the courts of California to adhere to the will of the people," Prentice said. "This is yet another example why the people need to go to the polls in November to defend the historic and natural definition of marriage."After a month of jubilant same-sex weddings here, the California Supreme Court intervened and ordered the city to stop issuing licenses to gay couples. The court later invalidated the documents and declined to address the constitutionality of a state ban on same-sex marriage until lower courts acted first. Today’s ruling by the Republican-dominated court affects more than 100,000 same-sex couples in the state, about a quarter of whom have children, according to U.S. census figures. It came after high courts in New York, Washington and New Jersey refused to extend marriage rights to gay couples. Before today, only Massachusetts' top court has ruled in favor of permitting gays to wed.Gay rights lawyers won an early victory in the dispute when a San Francisco trial judge decided in 2005 that gays should be permitted to wed. An appeals court later overturned that decision on a 2-1 vote, ruling that only the Legislature or the voters could change California's traditional definition of marriage.Lawyers in favor of same-sex marriage argued that the law discriminated on the basis of both gender and sexual orientation.

Opponents countered that the ban was gender-neutral, barring both women and men from marrying members of their own sex. They also argued that people could be treated differently because of their sexual orientation if there was a rational basis for it.In 2000, 61% of California voters approved Proposition 22, which said that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California."

Since the ballot measure, California has passed one of the strongest domestic partnership laws in the country, giving registered same-sex couples most of the rights of married people.The plan by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, City Atty. Dennis Herrera and gay rights lawyers to challenge state marriage laws by wedding same-sex couples was carefully considered.City officials chose the first couples to wed, hoping their long unions and sympathetic stories would put a face on same-sex marriage that courts would find difficult to reject. The city also decided to begin the weddings on a day when courts were closed to deprive opponents of quick legal intervention.

One of the first couples to wed, the lead plaintiffs in San Francisco's lawsuit challenging marriage laws, has since separated and is no longer part of the case.The long parade of weddings fours years ago -- at City Hall and across the street from the California Supreme Court -- provided a dramatic backdrop for the gay rights debate.Young gay fathers with babies strapped to their chests, lesbian couples with children and elderly gay couples who had been together for decades celebrated their unions while passersby honked their horns and friends threw rice and popped champagne corks. Protesters also showed up, carrying signs and denouncing the newlyweds.Before today's ruling, gay rights lawyers predicted a victory in the California Supreme Court would help them defeat the proposed constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, which the lawyers expect to qualify for the November ballot. A loss in the court would have helped the backers of the measure, they said.The California Supreme Court has six Republican appointees and one Democrat. Scholars have described the court under the leadership of Chief Justice Ronald M. George as cautious and moderately conservative.

1 comment:

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