State high court will hear same-sex marriage
Photo by Luke
By Julia Cheever
February 6, 2008
The California Supreme Court announced today it will hear arguments
in San Francisco on March 4 on whether there is a state constitutional
right to same-sex marriage.
The court's seven justices will hold an unusual three-hour long
hearing in their State Building courtroom on six consolidated
cases filed by groups opposing and supporting same-sex marriage.
The announcement means that a final decision on whether gay and
lesbian couples can marry in California is due by early June.
Under normal procedures, California courts must issue a written
ruling 90 days after hearing arguments in a case.
The state high court is the last stop on a legal journey that
began in San Francisco Superior Court after San Francisco Mayor
Gavin Newsom four years ago unsuccessfully sought to allow city
officials to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
After San Francisco officials had issued about 4,000 licenses
in four weeks in 2004, the state Supreme Court halted the practice
and later ruled the city had no authority to issue the licenses
and that they were invalid.
But the high court said it was willing to allow separate proceedings
to test the constitutionality of state laws requiring marriage
to be between a man and a woman.
Eventually, six lawsuits were filed - four by the city of San
Francisco and 19 gay and lesbian couples seeking a right to marry
and two by traditional-values groups opposed to same-sex marriage.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge struck down the state laws
in 2005. But in 2006, a state appeals court overturned that decision.
The appeals court said the Legislature and voters had a rational
basis for restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples while at
the same time giving same-sex couples equal benefits through the
state's domestic partnership system.
The case then went to the state Supreme Court, which will have
the final word on interpreting the rights provided by the California
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