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Gay marriage advocates vow to appeal
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006
Gay marriage advocates 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 1st District Court of Appeal on Thursday dealt another setback to the movement to expand gay marriage beyond Massachusetts.
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 gay 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 gay 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 McGuiness wrote.
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 gay 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 gay marriage after Massachusetts gays won the right to wed.
Associated Press writers Juliana Barbassa and Terence Chea contributed to this report.
California appeals court upholds ban on gay marriage
Fri Oct 6, 3:40 AM ET
A California appeals court upheld a state ban on gay marriages, ruling that only lawmakers could alter the traditional definition of marriage.
A three-member panel of the California Court of Appeal voted 2-1 to maintain the ban, prompting swift condemnation from gay and lesbian groups who vowed to take their case to state's supreme court.
In a written verdict that reversed an April 2005 decision by a San Francisco judge which said discriminating against gay marriage was unlawful, the court of appeal said only the legislature was empowered to change the law.
"We conclude California's historical definition of marriage does not deprive individuals of a vested fundamental right or discriminate against a suspect class," the justices said in a 128-page verdict.
"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 court verdict said California did not in practice discriminate against gays and lesbians because of existing 'domestic partner' laws which give couples almost the same legal rights as married spouses.
Rights activists vowed to take the case to the California Supreme Court.
"This decision is a pit-stop on the long road to justice, not a detour," said Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer at Lambda Legal.
"We believe that the Supreme Court will find as the trial court did that there is no room for a 'separate but equal' status that serves only to stigmatise same-sex couples and their children," she added.
The American Civil Liberties Union echoed criticism of the ruling.
"Today's decision was disappointing, especially for the thousands of same-sex couples throughout the state who are relying on the courts to do the right thing by their families," said ACLU attorney Tamara Lange.
"But we're hopeful that we will be able to show the California Supreme Court that same sex couples make lasting commitments just like different-sex couples and their families and shouldn't be denied the dignity and protections the state provides through marriage," she added.
California legislators sought to legalise same-sex marriage last year but bill was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the grounds that only voters or courts could decide the issue.