Gay marriage case delayed by “friend-of-court” briefs

One reason why the California Supreme Court is taking so long to decide whether gay marriage is legal is that the issue has attracted more “friend of the court” briefs than any other case in recent memory, Chief Justice Ronald George said Tuesday.

George said the court has received 45 such briefs from 145 different organizations lobbying the state's high court to decide the case in a variety of ways.

An array of civil rights groups and several cities have filed court documents in favor of gay marriage, while politically conservative and religious organizations filed papers supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's position opposing gay marriage. Attorney General Jerry Brown also has filed opposition papers.

“We have a lot of material before us,” George said. “There is a vast amount of literature to read.”

The Supreme Court took up the matter in December 2006. All the required written legal arguments were filed by Nov. 15, George said.

The chief justice said the court expects to hear the case in 2008. Theissue is not on the court's January calendar.

The court is required to rule 90 days after oral arguments.

The issue dates back to Valentine's Day in 2004 when San Francisco began marrying same-sex couples. In March, the California Supreme Court ordered the city to stop the marriages while the courts considered six related lawsuits challenging whether the state's one-man, one-marriage laws are constitutional.

In October 2006, a divided appellate court upheld California's marriage laws, ruling that they did not discriminate against gays because they get the same rights by registering as domestic partners.

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