Thursday, August 12, 2004

Court Voids S.F. Gay Weddings 

San Francisco is already there, but California will need another year or two to get on the right side of history:
San Francisco's attempt to legalize same-sex marriages, which made the city a magnet for gay and lesbian couples from around the nation and the focus of a nationwide political uproar, ran into a roadblock Thursday at the California Supreme Court.

The justices ruled unanimously that Mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his authority when he ordered the marriage licenses issued on Feb. 12 in defiance of a state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

By a 5-2 vote, the court ruled that none of the 3,955 couples who flocked to City Hall in response to Newsom's decree was ever legally married or entitled to the rights of spouses. The court said their $82 license fees should be refunded . . . .

Suits by gay and lesbian couples and the city are pending in San Francisco Superior Court claiming - as Newsom did when he authorized the weddings - that California's opposite-sex-only marriage law violates the state Constitution by discriminating on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.

As promised, the Supreme Court in Thursday's ruling steered clear of the constitutional issue. The justices will probably have to deal with that issue in a year or two when the Superior Court cases work their way up to them on appeal.

"We are confident that the court will live up to its own history and bring a swift end to marriage discrimination in California,'' said Bob Kearney, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents six same-sex couples in one of the Superior Court suits. He noted that California's high court was the nation's first to strike down a state ban on interracial marriage in 1948.
UPDATE (8/13): A letter to the editor of the S.F. Chronicle from Michael Wills of Sebastopol:
Editor -- As one member of the 4,000 same-sex couples married in San Francisco, I have to say I agree with the state Supreme Court's ruling.

Mayor Gavin Newsom did overstep his authority. It's called civil disobedience, and it's done to highlight grave injustice.

How better to demonstrate to the world -- and our joyous families and friends -- our utter desperation to get married?

We will get married 4,000 more times if necessary to make the point that what needs to be voided is our status as second-class, taxpaying Americans, not our marriages.

| | Technorati Links | to Del.icio.us