State ban on gay marriages will go before voters this November

A petition filed last month by groups supporting same-sex marriage that would have prevented a November ballot initiative defining marriage as between a man and woman from going to the voters will not be heard by the California Supreme Court.

The justices’ unanimous decision, announced Wednesday, means the referendum against gay marriage will stay on the ballot barring further legal action. It also clears the way for Secretary of State Debra Bowen to print voter information pamphlets on the issue. The court did notissue a statement in addition to the order, according to court spokeswoman Lynn Holton.

The referendum seeks to amend California’s constitution to ban same-sex nuptials in the state. It would overrule a May decision by the state Supreme Court that said current laws against gay marriage violate the state’s constitution.

Equality California, an advocacy group that supports gay marriage rights, filed a petition on June 20 to keep the initiative off the ballot, arguing that the measure would be a state constitutional revision, not an amendment, and would therefore require more elaborate procedures for passage.

Equality California also maintained the initiative was misleading because petition signers were told last fall and winter — prior to the state Supreme Court’s decision — that the measure would make no change to the manner in which marriage is recognized in California

Equality California was joined by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union in its petition.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which fought Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to allow same-sex marriages in 2004 and fought the marriage equality case in California Supreme Court, legally argued against removing the gay marriage ban from the ballot.

“Equality California and its allies were desperate to evade the democratic process,” Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum said in a statement. “They already used the courts to erase the votes of nearly 5 million Californians who voted to protect marriage.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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