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California supreme court says no to Newsom and gay marriages

California supreme court says no to Newsom and gay marriages

The California supreme court ruled Thursday that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his authority by allowing the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples this spring. The court also voided all the same-sex marriages that took place in the city. The court said the city violated the law when it issued the certificates and performed the marriage ceremonies during a monthlong wedding march that began February 12, since both legislation and a voter-approved measure define marriage as a union between a man and woman. The ruling does not address whether same-sex couples must be allowed to marry under the California constitution. That issue is being litigated in a separate lawsuit brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU. Legal briefs are being filed in that lawsuit in the next few weeks, and the case is expected to move quickly in state court. More than 4,000 couples and their families are directly affected by the court's decision today, including Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in San Francisco on February 12. "Del is 83 years old, and I am 79," said Phyllis Lyon. "After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time." One very real consequence of the court's action is that if one of the women were to die before the other, the surviving partner would have no right to Social Security or pension benefits and no protection against losing their family home. "This is a painful and difficult day for the thousands of couples whose love, commitment, and desire to protect their families was placed on hold," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "While their families are not yet treated equally, their courageous public declarations have shown the world the harm caused by marriage discrimination and will result in our ultimately obtaining the freedom to marry." While the challenge to the present law governing the issuance of marriage licenses moves forward in the courts, a simultaneous effort to change that law legislatively is also moving forward. The Marriage License Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that is being carried by Mark Leno, an assemblyman from San Francisco, and officially sponsored by Equality California, became the first marriage equality bill to pass a legislative body when it was passed by both the assembly rules and judiciary committees earlier this year. "Denying one group of people a government-issued license for the sole purpose of discriminating against them and their children flies in the face of everything that has made California great," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, which is not only sponsor of the legislation but also party to the litigation on behalf of its members. "These 4,000 families--and hundreds of thousands of other families headed by same-sex couples--deserve nothing less than equality, and we are confident that the courts and the legislature will remedy this injustice."

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