On the same day San Francisco officials honored slain supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country, conservative groups filed a petition to prevent same-sex weddings from taking place until voters can weigh in on a constitutional ban against gay marriages in November.
Last week, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the state’s domestic-partnership laws and Proposition 22, a measure passed by California voters in 2000 that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, violated the state’s constitution.
The decision followed a four-year legal battle that began when Mayor Gavin Newsom authorized the county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February 2004. More than 4,000 couples raced to the altar during a wedding spree that lasted roughly one month before the California Supreme Court voided the licenses, prompting a lawsuit from The City.
In April, however, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, an organization led by the legal group Alliance Defense Fund, submitted more than 1.1 million signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4, ballot to only make marriages between a man and a woman valid in the state. The amendment would make same-sex marriages illegal.
An announcement from the Secretary of State’s Office on whether the measure has enough valid signatures is expected June 18 — two days after the Supreme Court’s May 15 ruling is scheduled to become final.
In the petition, attorneys for Alliance Defense Fund argued that the court should “stay” its decision from going into effect — which means holding off on authorizing marriage licenses — until results from the November election are known.
“Permitting this decision to take effect immediately — in light of the realistic possibility that the people of California might amend their constitution to reaffirm marriage asthe union of one man and one woman — risks legal havoc and uncertainty of immeasurable magnitude,” the lawyers wrote.
Glen Lavy, senior counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, added that if the court’s decision went into effect before November and then voters approved a same-sex marriage ban then there “would also be wasted administrative costs” due to changed forms and other processes.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who led The City’s legal battle for same-sex marriage, said in a statement he would file a motion of opposition to the request next week.
“To continue to postpone the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples for a moment longer, based merely on political speculation as to whether the constitution may be amended, would be both illegal and inhumane,” he said.