A battle begun four years ago will reach a pivotal moment today when proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage present their case to the California Supreme Court.
The court’s seven justices will hear arguments and rebuttals for three hours and will then have 90 days to render a decision.
Six cases, including a lawsuit by the city and county of San Francisco and lawsuits filed on behalf of 19 same-sex couples, have been combined into one, cited as In re Marriage Cases, S147999, with the court set to decide on the constitutionality of the state’s marriage statutes.
The plaintiffs contend California laws violate the state Constitution by defining marriage as that between a man and woman and limiting same-sex couples to the “designation of marriage,” according to the court.
A state law recognizing domestic partnerships between same-sex couples passed in 1999, offering rights similar to those given to married couples. One year later, state voters passed Proposition 22 defining marriage as between a man and a woman only.
Mayor Gavin Newsom authorized the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples Feb. 12, 2004, and in the month that followed, an estimated 4,000 couples married — only to have their vows nullified by the state Supreme Court that year.
The City filed suit immediately and won a decision from Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer, who ruled in March 2005 that laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage were unconstitutional.
In October 2006, an appellate court panel overturned Kramer’s ruling, based on the state’s law limitingmarriage to heterosexual couples only.
Assemblymember Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has had laws supporting gay marriage pass the Legislature twice. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed the legislation both times, saying that the decision on same-sex marriages is best decided by the courts or the people.
Massachusetts is the only state recognizing same-sex marriage. Currently, 27 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and woman.
Two groups are gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot that would extend the current same-sex marriage ban to the state Constitution. If such a measure qualifies and is passed by voters, it would override a ruling by the justices legalizing gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage before California’s State Supreme Court today.
WHO FILED SUITS
» City and County of San Francisco
» 19 same-sex couples
WHO IS ARGUING AGAINST SUITS
» State of California
» Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
» Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund
» Campaign for California Families
WHAT THEY ARE ARGUING
» Whether the state's marriage statutes are constitutional
Source: California State Supreme Court