California Supreme Court: State constitution gives gays the right to marry

by By Howard Mintz and Denis C. Theriault
Mercury News


The 4-3 ruling, written by Chief Justice Ronald George, found that it is unconstitutional to deprive gays and lesbians of the equal right to walk down the aisle with a government-issued marriage license in hand.

“The California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples,” the court said in a 121-page decision that gives gays unprecedented rights.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will leave an indelible mark on civil rights law, but the next few months may well decide how enduring the result will be for California’s gay and lesbian couples, dozens of whom gathered outside the court Thursday morning awaiting the outcome.

The question now is whether the win will hold up. The Supreme Court ruling becomes final in mid-June.

Groups aligned against gay marriage are on the brink of qualifying a ballot initiative for November that would amend the California constitution to confine marriage to a union between a man and a woman, a move that would effectively trump the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court’s decision established unprecedented new legal protections for gays. It concluded that the state’s domestic partners laws did not provide gay couples with the “equal dignity and respect” given to married heterosexual couples.


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