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California high
court rejects same-sex marriage case

California high
court rejects same-sex marriage case

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The California supreme court on Wednesday said it would not hear a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage before the case has gone through the appeals court process, leaving the issue in legal limbo.

The California supreme court said Wednesday it would not immediately decide whether a state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, keeping marriage equality for gays and lesbians off-limits while leaving the issue in legal limbo. Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and others wanted to bypass an appeals court hearing to expedite a definitive ruling from the state's highest court. They asked the justices to directly review a trial judge's ruling that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

"We're disappointed," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Lockyer, who wanted the court to overturn the ruling and uphold state law. "We thought that the cases were ripe for a prompt and final resolution without having to go through the court of appeal."

The case will remain before the first district court of appeal in San Francisco, where it is likely to take months for a decision on the controversial issue--one that could confront California voters next year in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and repealing domestic-partner benefits. Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, who is pushing the amendment, welcomed the high court's decision. "It's very good that the high court declined to hear this case," said Thomasson. "The high court should never turn marriage upside down and inside out."

Without comment, the 5-0 decision, with one justice not participating and one vacancy on the court, came a week after the court ruled that gay and lesbian domestic partners are entitled to virtually the same benefits as married couples. The high court normally does not resolve cases until they have worked their way through the lower courts. One of the last times it did, however, involved same-sex marriage. In August 2004 the court ruled unanimously that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom had overstepped his authority when he issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples during a month-long wedding march that began in February that year.

The court took the case at the time because gay and lesbian newlyweds were seeking spousal benefits not authorized by the state at the time. Many of those benefits are now available under the domestic-partners law that took effect in January. In its ruling at the time, the court also voided the 4,000 gay and lesbian marriages sanctioned by the city but did not resolve whether the California constitution allows same-sex marriage.

That issue was taken up by San Francisco superior court judge Richard Kramer, who ruled in March in favor of a challenge brought by Newsom and gays and lesbians who were denied marriage certificates. Kramer wrote, "It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners." San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera said he was disappointed the issue would not be quickly resolved, but he said he was confident the courts would ultimately uphold Kramer's ruling.

While the high court declined to immediately review Kramer's decision, it could reach the justices in a year if voters don't approve the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Thomasson and opponents of same-sex marriage are attempting to qualify the amendment for next year's ballot. If passed, the same-sex litigation would be moot, and same-sex couples currently registered as domestic partners would lose almost all the rights they currently enjoy. (AP)

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