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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

California State Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Update

The California Supreme Court appeared divided today over the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The courtroom was packed for the long-awaited hearing, with lawyers for various sides taking turns at the podium. Attorneys for same-sex couples and for San Francisco argued that the state marriage law violated equal protection rights and anti-discrimination laws, while lawyers for the attorney general's and governor's offices, and for pro-family and religious groups, insisted that cultural tradition justified a ban on gay weddings.

During the three hours of arguments by lawyers for and against gay marriage, Justice Joyce L. Kennard questioned whether "the state has effectively conceded there is no valid grounds for distinction" between domestic partnership and marriage.

Three of the seven justices repeatedly mentioned that California voters have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, (Proposition 22) and that the public might not be ready to embrace same-sex marriage.

Justice Carol A. Corrigan said that it might be best to leave the question to the public, whose perception of gay marriage, she said, is in the process of "evolving." She also asked lawyers to show her where the state constitution addressed same-sex marriage.

Justice Carlos R. Moreno's questions did not make clear which way he was leaning, but he asked a lawyer for the city of San Francisco if the state's domestic partnerships gave same-sex couples rights equal to those extended to married couples.

"It's not equal, your honor," said Deputy City AttorneyTherese M. Stewart.

Moreno asked, "Doesn't this just boil down to the use of the "m" word, marriage?"

"Words matter, names matter," Stewart said. "It violates equal protection.”

Chief Justice Ronald M. George suggested that the state might want to give same-sex unions a different name since the federal government does not recognize gay marriage.

Other opponents of California's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban told the justices that the ban on gay marriage is as unconstitutional as was a 1940s ban on interracial marriage. The 1948 ruling that lifted the ban on interracial marriage recognized a "right to join in marriage with the person of one's choice."

The seven-member court is made up of six Republicans and one Democrat who are considered cautious and moderately conservative. They have 90 days to reach a decision.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

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