No decision expected until late next year; plaintiffs optimistic high court will overturn appeals court ruling
SAN FRANCISCO The California Supreme Court unanimously agreed Wednesday, Dec. 20, to decide whether the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates a constitutional ban on discrimination, though an outcome is not likely until late next year.
The justices are reviewing an October decision by the 1st District Court of Appeals, which ruled that California marriage laws do not discriminate because gay and lesbian couples can get most rights the state confers to married couples.
Massachusetts is the only state that authorizes same-sex marriage. California offers domestic partnerships, similar to civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut. New Jersey Gov. John Corzine on Thursday, Dec. 21, signed legislation creating civil unions that are supposed to give same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed gay and lesbian couples to wed at City Hall in 2004. But California’s justices halted the ensuing wedding spree and voided 4,037 marriage licenses by ruling the mayor did not have authority to make marriage law.
About 20 same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco sued the state, and the case has meandered through trial and appellate courts. Had the Supreme Court not taken the case, the lower court’s decision would have stood.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the city was “extremely gratified.”
“It’s perhaps the major civil rights issue of our time,” he said.
A call to the office of Attorney General Bill Lockyer was not returned.
A 1977 law and a 2000 voter-approved measure prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying in California.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 22, 2006.