- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Barring a stay of a historic California Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples will be able to wed in the state beginning June 17, according to a state directive issued yesterday.

The state said it chose June 17 because the California Supreme Court has until the end of business on June 16 to decide whether to grant a stay of its ruling legalizing gay marriage.

Gay rights advocates and some clerks initially thought couples would be able to wed as early as June 14, exactly 30 days after the court’s historic ruling that struck down bans on same-sex marriage in the nation’s most populous state.

The guidelines from Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, to the state’s 58 county clerks also contained copies of new marriage forms that include lines for “Party A” and “Party B” instead of bride and groom.

A group opposed to gay marriage has asked the court to stay its decision until after the November election, when voters are likely to face a ballot initiative that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Passage of the initiative would overrule the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. David Paterson has told state agencies to start recognizing gay marriages performed where the unions are legal, the Associated Press reported last night.

In addition, a new poll released yesterday shows that more California voters now support allowing same-sex marriage than oppose it.

The results mark the first time in more than three decades of polling that a majority of California voters have approved of extending marriage to gay couples, said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. The survey of 1,052 registered voters was conducted over the phone.

“I would say this is a historic turning point or milestone,” Mr. DiCamillo said. “We have speculated in the past there would be some time in the future when a majority would support same-sex marriage. Well, the lines have crossed.”

The poll found that 51 percent of respondents backed legalizing same-sex marriage and 42 percent opposed it, Mr. DiCamillo said.

In 2006 - when participants were asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of California allowing homosexuals to marry members of their own sex?” - 44 percent said they approved and 50 percent objected. In 1977, the first year that Field posted the question to voters, 28 percent approved and 59 percent were opposed.

The poll was conducted from May 17 to May 26 after the state Supreme Court issued its ruling May 15. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they agreed with the court’s decision and 46 percent disagreed.

Mr. DiCamillo said the jump in support for same-sex marriage indicates that voters were “influenced in some way by the judgment of the high court.”

Voters were similarly divided on the subject of a ballot initiative that would overturn the court’s ruling by putting a gay marriage ban in the state constitution.

Field asked respondents about it two ways - once referring to the specific measure that a group is seeking to get on the November ballot and once talking about a marriage amendment more generally.

Fifty-four percent opposed the amendment when presented with the issue generally, a figure that dropped to 51 percent when respondents were told that they might have the chance to vote on a specific measure in November. Support for the amendment stood at 40 percent and 43 percent.

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