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California supreme court says S.F. must stop gay marriages

California supreme court says S.F. must stop gay marriages

The California supreme court on Thursday ordered an immediate halt to gay marriages in San Francisco and said it would hear a case in May or June to determine the legality of such marriages. The action by California's highest court came two weeks after state attorney general Bill Lockyer and a conservative group asked the seven justices to immediately block the marriages, with more than 3,700 same-sex couples having wed at San Francisco's City Hall so far. The dispute began February 12, when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ordered his administration to issue same-sex marriage licenses. A steady stream of gay and lesbian couples from two dozen states have traveled to be married at San Francisco's City Hall, just one block from where the state supreme court sits. California's top court did not immediately address whether Newsom has the legal power to authorize the marriages, which contravene a state law and voter-approved ballot measure that say marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The justices also did not address whether the California constitution would permit gay marriage, as Newsom claims. Instead, the justices moved to block any more marriages, at least for now, until they decide whether Newsom has the power to authorize such unions. Had the court declined to intervene, the legal battle over gay marriage in California would have taken years as lawsuits traveled through the state's lower courts. "All that happened today is that matters were put on hold," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in its Western regional office in Los Angeles. "This ruling hits the 'pause' button, not the 'stop' button. Today is just the beginning of our fight on behalf of these married couples and others who have not yet gotten married. This case will ultimately resolve whether the California constitution requires that same-sex couples be given the equal right to marry." "It's extremely disappointing that San Francisco is being denied the opportunity to treat its citizens equally under law," said HRC president Cheryl Jacques. "Thousands of same-sex couples now know the security that comes with a marriage license. To even temporarily deny that opportunity to other citizens is very unfortunate."

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