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California Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Prop 8 decision says couples married before election will stay legally wed.

The California Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage but ruled that couples who wed in the months before the election will remain legally married.


The court split 6-1 on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in November. However, the justices unanimously decided to allow the marriages of the roughly 18,000 gay couples who wed in the six months before November to stay intact. Last May, a 4-3 vote in California high court reversed the marriage ban.


Chief Justice Ronald M. George said in an opinion written Tuesday that that state high court had ruled the November vote was not an illegal constitutional revision. Justice Carlos R. Moreno, the court’s only Democrat, was the singular vote to strike down Prop 8 as an illegal constitutional revision.


"In a sense, petitioners’ and the attorney general’s complaint is that it is just too easy to amend California constitution through the initiative process," the ruling said. "But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it."


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has supported gay marriage in the past, said he hopes gay couples will someday have the right to marry in the state.


"While I believe that one day either the people or courts will recognize gay marriage, as governor of California I will uphold the decision of the California Supreme Court," the Governor said in a statement, adding that he encourages those responding to the decision to "do so peacefully and lawfully."


Gay rights advocates responded to the controversial ruling by promising they’d continue to fight, though gay advocates say they might not be able to put something on the ballot until at least 2010.


"Today, we express our deepest disappointment in the California Supreme Court’s decision, which continues to deprive an entire class of Californians the fundamental freedom to marry," Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation President Neil G. Giuliano said in a statement. "It is wrong to stand in the way of giving committed couples the legal protections they need to care and be responsible for each other and their families."


Meanwhile, Lambda Legal has already launched an educational campaign, Marriage Watch California, which is directed towards communities of color and church groups that supported Prop 8. The Family Equality Council said it will also organize grassroots protests in Day of Decision rallies.


In Hollywood, reactions ranged from disappointment to a determination to keep fighting for gay rights.


"This is definitely a setback but momentum and history are on the side of equality," Perez Hilton, who has been covering the news on his celebrity gossip blog, told TheWrap. The blogger said he would be attending a Tuesday evening rally to show his support, while using his website as a vehicle to get the message out to the masses.


"I’m optimistic about the future and will continue to be very vocal on the issue of full civil rights for all Americans," he said.


Singer Melissa Ethridge said she believed it was unfair that those who got married during the six months will remain legally bound, while others couples can no longer obtain the same status.


"Those full of hate and fear will surely be disappointed that 18,000 same sex couples will be living in wedded bliss, kissing their spouses goodnight, checking off those little ‘married’ boxes on all those forms we fill out nowadays," Ethridge said in a statement. "How do I explain this to my children? Well, you know Ellen? She is married but Mommy and I are not." 


Some celebrities took to their own blogs to speak out about the decision.


"This makes me really sad," reality television star Kim Kardashian wrote on her blog Tuesday. "I thought we were more forward thinking than this, and I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court for being so close minded. … I have many gay friends anda ll I want is for them to be happy, yet this is just another obstacle in their way."


The state’s battle over same-sex marriage began in 2004 in San Francisco after Mayor Gavin Newsom decided to go against state law by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.


Couples who wed in the city later had their marriages rescinded by the Cailfornia Supreme Court, inciting supporters to challenge the ban in a fight that led to the San Francisco Superior Court, where a judge called the marriage ban unconstitutional. That decision was overturned on a 2-1 vote in a Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and the state high court later ruled on May 15 that gays could wed.


At the time, California and Massachusetts were the only states to allow gay couples to marry, though Iowa, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut have since legalized same-sex marriage.