Sunday, March 08, 2009

California SC appears likely to uphold gay marriage ban

Excerpts from  California Supreme Court appears likely to uphold gay marriage ban by Howard Mintz of the Mercury News

The California Supreme Court today appeared inclined to uphold Proposition 8, but showed obvious reluctance to void thousands of same-sex marriages already in place when voters restored a ban on gay marriage last fall.

During three hours of arguments in San Francisco, the justices peppered lawyers opposing Proposition 8 with questions that suggested they do no believe they have the authority to trump the will of the voters.

At the same time, even justices who voted against striking down's California's previous ban on gay marriage, indicated that Proposition 8 should not wipe out an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place last year.

"Is that really fair to people who depended on what this court said was the law?" Justice Ming Chin asked Ken Starr, the former Clinton impeachment prosecutor who argued that same-sex marriages shouldn't be recognized under Proposition 8.

The justices are considering a high stakes legal challenge to the validity of the measure, which was approved by voters last fall and restored California's ban on gay marriage. The ballot measure, enacted by a 52 to 48 percent vote, erased last May's historic state Supreme Court ruling finding California's prior ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional because it deprived gay couples of the equal right to wed.

Attorney General Jerry Brown also has refused to defend the law, saying it is unconstitutional and conflicts with last year's state Supreme Court ruling.

If the court upholds Proposition 8, the justices must still determine whether existing gay marriages are valid across the state. The justices agreed to review the case in November, producing an avalanche of legal arguments from all sides of the gay marriage debate. The Supreme Court now has 90 days to rule in the case, ensuring the fate of Proposition 8 will be determined before summer begins.

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