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California court hands defeat to advocates of gay marriage

California court hands defeat to advocates of gay marriage

A state appeals court ruled Thursday that California's ban on gay marriage does not violate the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians, dealing a critical defeat to a movement hungry for a win after high courts in New York and Washington state upheld similar bans in those states.
In reversing the March 2005 ruling of a San Francisco trial judge, the First District Court of Appeal agreed with the state's attorney general, who argued it is up to lawmakers, not the courts, to change the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
"We conclude California's historical definition of marriage does not deprive individuals of a vested fundamental right or discriminate against a suspect class," the court said. "The time may come when California chooses to expand the definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions. That change must come from democratic processes, however, not by judicial fiat."
The justices, in their 128-page opinion, noted that California's ban on same-sex marriage does not discriminate against gays and lesbians because of the state's strong domestic partner law, which gives registered couples the same rights as married spouses in California.
The ruling does not guarantee, however, that same-sex couples will not ultimately be able to get married in California. Gay marriage advocates said beforehand they would appeal to the California Supreme Court if the intermediate court did not decide in their favor.
"Though we are disappointed, we always knew this issue was going to be decided by the California Supreme Court," said Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality USA. "We believe that the California Supreme Court will enforce the Constitutional guarantee of equality under the law and strike down the discriminatory barriers denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage."
Thursday's ruling came three months after the appeals court heard six hours of arguments in as many related cases _ four of them filed by the city and lawyers for 20 couples seeking the right to wed, and two brought by groups that want to maintain the status quo barring same-sex unions.
That followed San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer's March 2005 ruling that the state's existing marriage laws violated the civil rights of gays and lesbians by denying them "the basic human right to marry a person of one's choice" and by discriminating on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.
Following Kramer's decision, the Legislature last year became the first lawmaking body in the United States to legalize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying it was up to voters or the courts, not lawmakers, to settle the contentious issue.


Updated : 2021-05-19 08:28 GMT+08:00