- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

The California Supreme Court yesterday voided nearly 4,000 “marriages” granted to same-sex couples in San Francisco this year, ruling that city officials broke a state law and a voter-approved measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

In a 5-2 decision, the court said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his powers in granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples during a four-week stretch in February and March. The justices steered clear of the question of whether California’s state constitution permits recognition of such unions.

“Local officials in San Francisco exceeded their authority by taking official action in violation of applicable statutory provisions,” the court said, ordering notification of “all affected same-sex couples that the same-sex marriages authorized by the officials are void and of no legal effect.”

But, with the ink on the ruling still drying, Mr. Newsom announced to reporters that he was “proud of those 4,000 couples” and said of the San Francisco ceremonies that “there is nothing that any court decision or politician can do that will take that moment away.”

Polls show most Californians oppose same-sex “marriage,” and a state law backed by ballot initiative passed in 2000 declared: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Advocacy groups opposed to same-sex “marriage” quickly hailed yesterday’s ruling as a major victory. The Family Research Council called the ruling “a sweeping defeat for all those seeking to use the courts to redefine marriage.” Tony Perkins, the organization’s president, added that the California justices had “set a shining example for courts across the nation.”

Homosexual rights groups said otherwise. “This decision has nothing to do with the more than a dozen ongoing lawsuits around the country challenging the constitutionality of state laws that prohibit gay couples from getting married,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).

About a dozen same-sex couples, some wearing wedding gowns or tuxedos, waited on the steps of the California Supreme Court building in Sacramento yesterday. Some cried when the decision was read.

“Obviously, it’s a very sad day for the 4,000 couples who were married in San Francisco earlier this year,” Mr. Foreman said.

“The right wing is trying to pin this as some kind of big setback to the movement for marriage equality,” he said. “It’s simply not that; this is about the authority of municipalities to make their own judgments about the constitutionality of state laws.”

Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), a group opposed to same-sex “marriage,” disagreed.

“The big picture on this,” Mr. Daniels said, “is that the views of the voters in California reflect the views of most Americans who believe that it’s common sense that marriage is a man and a woman.”

AFM was a driving force behind the Federal Marriage Amendment, which stalled in the U.S. Senate last month.

Despite that setback, Mr. Daniels said, “All around the country we’re seeing a democratic movement reflecting the will of the people to protect marriage.

“Americans don’t want to see marriage redefined in a way that’s foreign to their value system or what they’re teaching to their own children.”

The debate remains very much alive in several states.

Massachusetts legalized same-sex “marriage” May 17. State constitutional amendments to prohibit such unions are expected to be voted on this fall in Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. Initiatives are pending in Michigan, North Dakota and Ohio.

Earlier this month, a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage” was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters in Missouri, and in Washington, a judge ruled in favor of homosexual “marriage,” pending a resolution from that state’s top court.

When the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the San Francisco case, the justices said they would decide only whether Mr. Newsom overstepped his mayoral powers. But they noted they could also entertain a constitutional challenge — regarding whether homosexual couples should be treated the same as heterosexual couples under the California Constitution — if such a lawsuit were to reach them.

The result was a string of lawsuits filed by same-sex couples making that argument. Those cases are unlikely to make it to the California Supreme Court for a year or more. But homosexual rights advocates yesterday cited the lawsuits as the seed that will keep the issue alive in California.

“As those cases move forward, we are hopeful that every California family will be able to access the more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities that are only conferred by marriage,” said the District-based Human Rights Campaign.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide