same-sex marriage vowed to appeal a state appeals court
ruling upholding California's ban on same-sex
weddings--a decision that would be a critical
defeat for their cause if it stands. In reversing the
March 2005 ruling of a San Francisco trial judge, the first
district court of appeal on Thursday dealt another
setback to the movement to expand same-sex marriage
This summer high
courts in New York and Washington State also refused to
strike down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. But unlike
in those states, gay activists in California still
have another chance to get the state's marriage laws
overturned. They and their opponents have said they
expect the California supreme court to settle the issue.
''While we are disappointed that the court of
appeal ruled against our families, we are confident
that we will prevail and that the California dream
will be available to all,'' said Geoff Kors, executive
director of Equality California.
Opponents of same-sex marriage praised the
court's decision. ''The court understood that marriage
has a meaning, and that unless you redefine marriage,
all the arguments the other side have made are
meaningless,'' said Glen Lavy, an attorney for
Alliance Defense Fund, which asked the appeals court
to overturn the lower court ruling.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court
agreed with the state's attorney general, who argued
that it is up to the legislature, not the courts, to
change the traditional definition of marriage as a union
between a man and a woman.
''We conclude California's historical definition
of marriage does not deprive individuals of a vested
fundamental right,'' the court majority said. ''The
time may come when California chooses to expand the
definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions. That
change must come from democratic processes, however,
not by judicial fiat.''
The justices said the state has gone a long way
toward promoting equality for same-sex couples through
its strong domestic-partner law, which gives
registered couples the same rights as married spouses. They
rejected arguments from same-sex marriage proponents
that such a ''separate but equal'' system was discriminatory.
''It is rational for the legislature to preserve
the opposite-sex definition of marriage, which has
existed throughout history,'' Justice William
In a strongly worded dissent, Justice Anthony
Kline scoffed at what he said was his colleagues'
suggestion that same-sex couples should not be
entitled to marry now simply because they had not been
permitted to in the past. ''The fact that same-sex
couples have traditionally been prohibited from
marrying is the reason this lawsuit was commenced,'' he wrote.
Since 2004, when Massachusetts became the first
state to legalize same-sex marriage, advocates have
seen California as one of their best hopes for
expanding the movement.
The state is home to more same-sex couples than
any other and is one of 26 with statutes limiting
marriage to a man and a woman. Another 19 states
passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage
after Massachusetts gays won the right to wed. (Lisa