Justices will have 90 days after hearing arguments to issue ruling
The California Supreme Court this week set March 4 as the date to hear arguments over the legality of same-sex marriage in that state.
The court has scheduled three hours for arguments. The justices will then have 90 days to issue a ruling.
The case before the court is a consolidation of six separate lawsuits challenging the state prohibiting legal marriage for same-sex couples. Plaintiffs are the city of San Francisco, Equality California and several same-sex couples.
The hearing comes less than a month after the four-year anniversary of the date that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk there to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in direct challenge to a state law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. The law, Proposition 22, was passed by voter referendum in 2000.
Newsom said the law violated the state constitution and that his duty to uphold the constitution superceded the anti-gay-marriage law.
Thousands of couples flocked to San Francisco to get married before the court ruled, a month later, that Newsom had no authority to circumvent the law.
The court later invalidated the about 4,000 same-sex marriages that had been performed in San Francisco and placed a ban on further same-sex marriages until challenges to the law could make their way through the court system, giving the supreme court the chance to rule.
San Francisco Superior Court judge Richard Kramer ruled in March 2005 that laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage were unconstitutional. But his ruling was overturned in October 2006 by an appellate court that said individuals only have the right to marry someone of the opposite gender, based on the legal definition of marriage in California.
The California Legislature has twice passed laws allowing legal same-sex marriage in the state.
But both times, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.
In vetoing the first gay marriage bill, Schwarzenegger said the matter was one for the courts to decide and not lawmakers, going against the GOP party line in other states, where gay marriage opponents criticized “activist judges” for ruling in favor of gay marriage.
When he vetoed the second gay marriage bill in 2007, Schwarzenegger said the matter should be left up to the voters.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 8, 2008