WORLD> Government Reaction
Calif upholds ban on gay marriages
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-05-28 13:48

SAN FRANCISCO: Gay leaders in California say they are moving into campaign mode with an eye toward trying to repeal Proposition 8 at the ballot box as early as next year after the state Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages.

Calif upholds ban on gay marriages
Lyndsay Brill (left) and Noelle Messier of Los Angeles share a kiss during a same-sex marriage rally in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday. [Agencies] 
"So the court has said we have to go back," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California. "We believe the political drive, the momentum, is there to do that."

The door to gay marriage in California - opened with a 4-3 ruling by the same court last spring and closed by voters in November - remains blocked for now as a result of Tuesday's 6-1 decision. The court held that the ban, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, was a legal exercise of the virtually unfettered initiative power the California Constitution grants its citizens.

The court did refuse to nullify an estimated 18,000 marriages that took place before the ban was approved. For the couples involved, relief was mixed with a sense of being marginalized.

"It's a little strange to feel like we're part of a grandfathered minority," said Leanne Waldal, 38, wiping away tears after the ruling was announced. Waldal and her wife were married in Canada in 2007 and again in California in October. "I hoped they wouldn't invalidate our marriage, but I would rather be part of a full group."

Gay marriage opponents, who in recent months have seen four more states join Massachusetts in extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians, praised the ruling. "The voters have decided this issue and their views should be respected," said Andrew P. Pugno, a lawyer for, the leading group behind the initiative.

Proposition 8 proponents do not plan to challenge the existing gay marriages that were protected by the court, Pugno said.

President Barack Obama was scheduled to be in Los Angeles for a fundraiser yesterday. Gay rights activists planned to use the visit to press the president to fulfill his campaign promise to work for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, said Lorri Jean, director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

Protests of the court's decision were held across the nation. In St Louis, activists gathered in front of City Hall, its rotunda pillars draped in an expansive rainbow flag. Ed Reggi, who married his partner of 10 years this month in Iowa, challenged the crowd of about 200 to speak out on the issue.

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"Tell an old friend and a new stranger that we are gay, partnered, married, widowed and in mourning," said Reggi, 37. "Tell them how important marriage equality is to you."

In Los Angeles, about 100 people sat down in an intersection near the University of California, Los Angeles during rush hour and several hundred protesters gathered at a rally in West Hollywood where actress Drew Barrymore addressed the crowd.

Proposition 8 superseded the Supreme Court's May 2008 ruling that legalized same-sex unions by amending the state constitution to outlaw them. In that decision, the court invalidated California's marriage statutes, holding that denying same-sex couples the right to wed amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination.

In a 136-page majority ruling written by Chief Justice Ronald George, the justices said it was not their job to address whether the ban was wise public policy, but only to decide whether it was constitutionally valid, while "setting aside our own personal beliefs and values".

The court rejected arguments that the ban was such a fundamental change in the California Constitution that it first needed the Legislature's approval.

Justice Carlos Moreno, who had been under consideration as Obama's nominee to the US Supreme Court, was the lone dissenter. He said denying same-sex couples the right to wed "strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution".

Gay rights groups are starting work gathering the 700,000 signatures required to place a repeal of Proposition 8 before voters in November 2010.