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July 17, 2008


By Howard Mintz



Court lets stand initiative on same-sex marriages



With perhaps the last legal roadblock removed, it appears the fate of gay marriage in California will be up to the voters in November.


The California Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a bid by civil rights groups to remove a measure from the November ballot that would restore the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Without comment, the justices unanimously refused to hear the legal challenge, filed last month by Equality California, a group opposed to Proposition 8.


The ballot measure would amend the state constitution to confine marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Civil rights groups had argued that the measure was legally flawed and would conflict with the state Supreme Court's ruling in May striking down California's previous ban on same-sex marriage.

But the Supreme Court, which is ordinarily reluctant to tamper with ballot measures, declined to hear the case. Secretary of State Debra Bowen had urged the court to decide the matter by next month, when ballot materials must be sent out to the printer.


Proposition 8 supporters were quick to criticize gay marriage advocates for trying to kick the initiative off the ballot.


"The court's dismissal sends a strong message that Proposition 8 continues to have the law on its side," said Ron Prentice, chairman of the campaign. "Time and again, the opponents have attempted to circumvent the democratic process."


Civil rights groups, meanwhile, downplayed the development, vowing to press the campaign against the ballot measure.


"We're disappointed, but this ruling does not affect the campaign against Prop. 8 in any way," said a prepared statement from several of the groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. "We have been focused on continuing the election and moving forward."


Gay marriage opponents are hoping the ballot measure will erase the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling, which found the state ban on gay marriage unconstitutional because it did not provide equal rights to gay and lesbian couples. If the ballot measure succeeds, it would effectively trump the Supreme Court ruling by amending the state constitution.


Civil rights groups have vowed to return to the courts and challenge the measure if it is approved by voters, arguing that the ban would still be unconstitutional.

In the meantime, thousands of gay couples continue to take advantage of their newfound legal right to marry across California. Marriage Equality, a group backing gay marriage, on Wednesday celebrated the one-month anniversary of the first marriage licenses being issued to same-sex couples in the state.


A recent Field Poll showed a majority of voters support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in California.


Contact Howard Mintz at or (408) 286-0236.