State high court to hear gay marriage case

As the four-year anniversary of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s controversial gay marriage move approaches, the California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it has set a March court date to hear arguments on whether excluding gay couples from marriage violates the state constitution.

On March 4, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on six cases, which have been coordinated into one, challenging the state’s laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The case was filed after Newsom authorized the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Feb. 12, 2004, sparking a national uproar and drawing criticism across political party lines.

In the month that followed —before the state Supreme Court put an end to the practice — roughly 4,000 same-sex couples took the plunge, only to have their marriages nullified by the court later that year.

Proposition 22, passed by California voters in 2000, defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and San Francisco Superior Court judge Richard Kramer ruled in March 2005 that laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage were unconstitutional.

An October 2006 appellate court panel overturned Kramer’s ruling because, based on the legal definition of marriage in California, an individual has the right to enter into marriage only with someone of the opposite sex, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

The plaintiffs are the city of San Francisco, the state’s leading gay advocacy group and several same-sex couples who have not been allowed to marry.

Opposing the plaintiffs are the state’s attorney general and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as advocates who say marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Schwarzenegger’s position is that the “appropriate venue” for a decision on this case is either in the courts or a vote by the people, Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said that since Newsom made his move four years ago, public opinion has shifted toward allowing same-sex marriages.

dsmith@examiner.com

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