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California Supreme Court upholds Prop. 8; gay marriage remains banned in state

 The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage but also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.

The decision virtually ensures another fight at the ballot box over marriage rights for gays. Gay rights activists said they may ask voters to repeal the marriage ban as early as next year, and opponents have pledged to fight any such effort. Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote.

By 52% to 48%, voters approved the measure reinstating a ban on same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling last May, approved such marriages. Left in limbo were about 18,000 couples who got married in California between May and November of last year. (Note: An earlier version of this post said voters approved by a 52-48 margin the measure reinstating a ban on same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling last May, approved such marriages.)

The case for overturning the initiative was widely viewed as a long shot. Gay rights lawyers had no solid legal precedent on their side, and some of the court’s earlier holdings on constitutional revisions mildly undercut their arguments.

But gay marriage advocates captured a wide array of support in the case, with civil rights groups, legal scholars and even some churches urging the court to overturn the measure. Supporters of the measure included many churches and religious organizations.

The legal fight over same-sex marriage in California began in San Francisco in 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsom spurned state law, and the city began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Long lines of couples showed up to marry and celebrated within view of the court with rice and champagne.

Those marriages sparked a national debate about gay rights and made the marriage question a political issue in an election year. Dozens of states later adopted constitutional amendments to bar same-sex marriage.

Those gay couples who wed in San Francisco later had their marriages rescinded by the California Supreme Court, which ruled that a city could not single-handedly flout state law. But the court said supporters of marriage rights could challenge the ban in the lower courts.

The legal fight moved to San Francisco Superior Court, where a judge struck down the marriage ban as unconstitutional. A Court of Appeal in San Francisco later overturned that decision on a 2-1 vote. The state high court eventually took up the case, which culminated in a May 15 ruling last year declaring gays could marry each other.

Before last fall, California was one of only two states — the other was Massachusetts — to permit same-sex marriage.

Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine have since legalized it, and lawmakers in New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire are considering bills of their own.

California’s historic 2008 ruling, written by Chief Justice Ronald George, repeatedly invoked the words "respect and dignity" and framed the marriage question as one that deeply affected not just couples but also their children. California has more than 100,000 households headed by gay couples, about a quarter with children, according to 2000 census data.

As soon as the ruling was final, thousands of gay couples showed up at city halls around the state to marry, and many flew in from elsewhere for California weddings. While the wedding business was brisk, opponents mounted a heated campaign with the help of churches and conservatives to overturn the court’s action.

Even though the court has upheld Proposition 8, a key portion of the court’s May 15, 2008, decision remains intact. Sexual orientation will continue to receive the strongest constitutional protection possible when California courts consider cases of alleged discrimination. The California Supreme Court is the only state high court in the nation to have elevated sexual orientation to the status of race and gender in weighing discrimination claims.

--Maura Dolan in San Francisco

 
Comments () | Archives (62)

Wow, the CA Supreme Court sort of made a great decision. Prop 8 is awesome!!

I'm dissapointed but not surprised at the decision. I'm very glad that all my friends and the 18,000 other couples will still be married. This fight isn't over by a long shot.

Bullshit. That is all I can say to the courts. Heterosexuals should never have been allowed to determine our rights. The fight for equal rights continues.

A victory for our form of democrarcy. The will of the people.

SHAME ON YOU, California. So much for constitutional protections for a minority.

WHose marriage will we vote on next?

Watching this from New York and can only say how disappointed I am. Don't give up the fight - it's not over yet.

Let Freedom Ring! Finally we are starting to see the great state of California upholding justice and democracy!!

Ridiculous. So now California will have two sets of gay couples? This makes no sense. Marriage should be made available to all -- gays and, yes, even straights.

this state disgusts me. i used to believe in california, but after today i plan on moving as soon as i can. . .

OUTRAGE! To codify discrimination in the California Constitution is unacceptable.

Who's next on the right-wing witch hunt? Be very careful - your human and civil rights may be next!

This is a Great Monent for California, the people Voted and the court upheald the voice of California. If you still want to have gay marriage, their are other States that will wlecome you.

Thank God! Let gays and lesbians continue to have their "civil unions", which give them all their human rights. Let my wife and I continue to have our marriage as defined by tradition and church, since time immemorial - as an oath and a bond between a man and a woman.

In this country, the majority rules. So let it be written; so let it be done.

Its a shame the some people believe the Majority can tell a Minority what to do. It is this kind of thinking that let rise to the Nazi party and the Holocaust.

Ah well, it's all part of the process. Back to the ballot box!!

Gay marriage takes rights away from kids. Every child deserves the right to have a mother and father. This is a fundamental right.

So sad but that was the expected decision.

I can only think of so many people I know that are being personally affected by this. Our state has a reputation of being a tolerant place for everyone, but I don't really see why we have that reputation. The courts have always done a great job at protecting minorities rights, but everytime the people of this state go to the polls, we tend to be pretty intolerant.

Hey people where are we going to protest??? WE HAVE TO because we pay our taxes as everyone else does...

Hooray! California actually did something RIGHT!

This is ridiculous! What ever happened to religious freedom and choice? All this proves is that religion is still being enforced upon all American's. If you don't believe in same sex marriage then don't do it. I hate guns and Nascar but do you see anyone organizing to take that away from you?

I am so disappointed in this ruling. Shame on you, Supreme Court of California.

Personally, I am a Prop 8 supporter, and am glad to see that the Court is upholding the voice of the people. At the same time, I respect those who were/are against the propostion, and was impressed with their reaction in front of the court house. (The group gave a few chants, then left peacefully.)
This obviously isn't the last we'll hear on the topic, and I look forward to debates we'll have in the future.

"Which part of NO is not understood by the gay community?"

The same part that wasn't heard by every other group (including religions) that wanted equality here in America when they couldn't have it in other places.

democracy in California = the right of a small majority to deny basic civil rights to those they don't approve of

justice in California = updating Dred Scott for the 21st century

 
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