Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gay-Marriage Fight to Persist in California

gay marriageSAN FRANCISCO -- California's Supreme Court on Tuesday will issue its ruling on whether the state's gay-marriage ban will stand, but the decision likely won't mark the end of the highly divisive matter.

Gay-rights groups and organizations that support traditional marriage have plans in place to press their case no matter how the court rules. Should the gay-marriage ban stand, some gay-rights groups are planning a ballot initiative to once again legalize gay marriage in either 2010 or 2012. If the ban falls, groups supporting traditional marriage say they will likely appeal to federal courts.

"We need a federal amendment to the constitution affirming marriage is between a man and a woman, because we'll just keep fighting about it here," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an evangelical group based in Sacramento. He predicted a continuing battle between the two sides in the courts and at the ballot box regardless of who wins.

The court's decision Tuesday will be the latest chapter of an issue that has captured nationwide attention. California courts originally helped lead the way in legalizing gay marriage in May 2008. But in November, a voter initiative dubbed Proposition 8 amended California's Constitution to declare that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the state.

The lawsuit the state Supreme Court is ruling on was filed by same-sex couples and local governments who claimed that Proposition 8 became law in an illegal manner. The suit alleged the proposition was a revision -- not an amendment -- to the Constitution because it took away the fundamental rights of a group. A revision is considered a more significant change that requires more than a majority ballot vote.

As California has been embroiled in a legal battle over gay marriage, other states have taken steps. In recent months, Vermont, Iowa, Maine and Connecticut have legalized same-sex marriage, and a bill to do so is currently being negotiated in the New Hampshire Legislature.

In California, after a March 5 hearing over Proposition 8, legal scholars and even many gay-marriage advocates said the state Supreme Court justices' questions signaled that a majority were unconvinced the amendment went too far. Justice Joyce Kennard, who voted to legalize gay marriage last year and whose vote is likely needed to overturn Proposition 8, peppered lawyers in favor of gay marriage with questions about why the court should overturn a voter-approved measure.

If the court leaves the ban in place, it is also expected to rule on the validity of the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in California before Proposition 8 became law.

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