March 16, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO: California's bar on gay marriages is unconstitutional,
a judge has found, ruling that the state could not justify limiting
marriage to a man and a woman.
In the eagerly awaited opinion, which is likely to be appealed to the
state's highest court, San Francisco County Superior Court judge
Richard Kramer said there was "no rational purpose" for withholding
marriage licences from homosexuals.
In a written judgment, he said the state's historical definition of
marriage could not justify the denial of equal protection for gays and
lesbians. "The state's protracted denial of equal protection cannot be
justified simply because such constitutional violation has become
traditional," he wrote.
Judge Kramer ruled on lawsuits brought by the city of San Francisco
and a dozen same-sex couples last March, after the California Supreme
Court halted a four-week marriage spree that Mayor Gavin Newsom
initiated in February last year when he directed city officials to
issue marriage licences to gays and lesbians, in defiance of state
Legal groups representing religious conservatives joined California
Attorney-General Bill Lockyer in defending the laws, and vowed to
appeal if Judge Kramer ruled against them. Mr Lockyer's office expects
the issue will have to be settled by the California Supreme Court.
Bills before California's legislature would put a constitutional
amendment banning same-sex marriages on the November ballot.
If the voters approve such an amendment, as those in 13 other states
did last year, that would put the issue beyond the control of
politicians and the courts.