Calif. lawmakers voice support for gay marriage

Calif. lawmakers voice support for gay marriage

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WSU.3019a - Sacramento, CA.   A resolution has been introduced in both the California Assembly and Senate to reaffirm support for same-sex marriage.

The measure is non-binding, but the symbolism in the wake of Proposition 8 is significant, LGBT rights leaders say.

California voters last month agreed to void the state Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The legality of the vote, however, is back in the hands of the court, which will hear arguments in the case early next year.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the first openly gay man elected to the California Senate, and State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano ( D-San Francisco) introduced concurrent resolutions that back up the legal arguments of Prop 8 opponents.

“While a proposed amendment to the California Constitution can be accomplished through the initiative process,” the resolution reads, “A proposed revision of the California Constitution must originate in the Legislature and must be approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature before being submitted to the electors.”

Proposition 8 passed with a slim 52 percent majority. Following the election three challenges to the vote were filed by LGBT rights groups.

All three cases claim the measure abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group. They argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change.

The justices said in addition to hearing arguments on the validity of the vote, it wants to address what effect, if any, a ruling upholding the amendment would have on the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that were sanctioned in California before Election Day.

The justices directed Attorney General Jerry Brown and lawyers for the Yes on 8 campaign to submit arguments by Dec. 19 on why the ballot initiative should not be nullified. It said lawyers for the plaintiffs, who include same-sex couples who did not wed before the election, must respond before Jan. 5.

Oral arguments could be scheduled as early as March, but a ruling would not be likely for months after that.

The past two sessions of the legislature saw the passage of bills that would permit same-sex marriage. In both cases the bills were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) who said the issue should be left to either the courts or voters. Schwarzenegger, however, campaigned against passage of Prop 8.

The issue of same-sex marriage in California dates back to 2004 when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Some 8,000 couples exchanged vows before the state Supreme Court ruled Newsom had acted illegally.

The court nullified the marriages, but said its ruling dealt only with Newsom’s actions. The justices said at the time the question of whether barring same-sex couples from marrying violated the state’s equal protection clause of its constitution was a separate matter.

Legal challenges on the constitutional question were begun almost immediately. Three separate suits ultimately were wrapped together into a single case.

In March 2005, a Superior Court judge in San Francisco ruled that the law denying same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

“It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners,” County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer said in a written ruling.

In striking down the state ban on same-sex marriage, Kramer wrote that the state’s historical definition of marriage, by itself, cannot justify the denial of equal protection for gays and lesbians.

Kramer stayed his ruling while the state appealed.

In October, 2006, the California Court of Appeal in a split decision overturned Kramer’s ruling. In May the state Supreme Court upheld the appeal court ruling and thousands of same-sex couples began marrying.

By Newscenter Staff

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