Friday, March 12, 2004

California’s high court yesterday ended San Francisco’s monthlong wedding party when it ordered city officials to stop issuing “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom must “refrain from issuing marriage licenses or certificates not authorized” by California marriage laws, the California Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling.

Almost 4,200 marriage licenses have been issued in San Francisco since Feb. 12.

The seven justices said their ruling did not address the legality of such homosexual “marriages,” and said they would hear the arguments in May or June on lawsuits brought by the state and by pro-family groups against San Francisco’s issuing the licenses.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, lawmakers preliminarily passed a state constitutional amendment that says marriage is the union of a man and a woman and creates a civil-union system for same-sex couples.

The amendment passed 129-69, far more than the 101 votes needed. It was supported by Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran, both Democrats.

The amendment also won a second preliminary vote, but advocates of homosexual “marriage” were conducting procedural maneuvers to derail the proposal late last night.

Conservative groups oppose the current amendment because it creates civil unions. Homosexual rights groups oppose any amendment because the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court already has granted them full marriage rights as of May 17, and they do not want to settle for civil unions.

In Oregon yesterday, a state circuit court ordered officials from the state’s largest county to stop issuing “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples or explain their actions at a court date to be determined today.

Multnomah County officials said they would continue to issue licenses. The county, which includes Portland, has issued more than 1,700 licenses already.

President Bush yesterday reiterated his support for a federal marriage amendment.

“I will defend the sanctity of marriage against activist courts and local officials who want to redefine marriage. The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution,” Mr. Bush said via satellite at the National Association of Evangelicals’ convention in Colorado.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and presumed presidential nominee, supports civil unions but not same-sex “marriage.” He has denounced Mr. Bush’s stance as divisive and unnecessary.

In California, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who filed a lawsuit two weeks ago with the high court, said yesterday he was “gratified” that the court “granted our request to quickly resolve this issue.”

“They restored order to chaos in San Francisco,” said Joshua Carden, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is representing traditional-values groups in lawsuits against the “marriages,” both in the state high court and in San Francisco Superior Court.

The lower court hearing is scheduled for March 29, and yesterday’s ruling “does not preclude the filing of separate action in superior court raising a substantive constitutional challenge to the current marriage statutes,” the high court said.

Mr. Newsom’s spokesman, Peter Ragone, said the city would comply with the ruling as soon as officials receive the order.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the court’s order, saying the judiciary “is the appropriate venue for resolving questions pertaining to the constitutionality of our state laws.”

Homosexual rights groups said the California decision was not a rout.

“All that happened today is that matters were put on hold. This ruling hits the ‘pause’ button, not the ‘stop’ button,” said Jon Davidson, an attorney with Lambda Legal, which is representing several homosexual couples who have “married” in San Francisco.

“Today is just the beginning of our fight on behalf of these married couples and others who have not yet gotten married,” Mr. Davidson said, adding that since Feb. 12, “judges have refused to intervene five times.”

Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families, which is part of the lawsuits against same-sex “marriage,” praised the high court for “upholding state law that respects and protects marriage for a man and a woman, as it should be.”

“The state high court has done what Bill Lockyer refused to do — use its authority and power to enforce the plain reading of the law that marriage licenses can only go to a man and a woman,” Mr. Thomasson added pointedly.

He and other members of traditional-values groups have been impatient with Mr. Lockyer’s response to the marriage spree.

None of San Francisco’s same-sex “marriage” licenses have been registered or recorded by the state, a spokeswoman for the California Health and Human Services agency said yesterday.

Last month, the agency said it would not accept marriage licenses that had been altered. Homosexual couples had been scratching out “groom” and “bride” on their licenses and writing in such things as “Applicant No. 1” and “Applicant No. 2” or “Spouses for Life.”

Massachusetts has been in an uproar over same-sex “marriage” since Nov. 18, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses. The high court stayed its decision 180 days — until May 17 — to allow lawmakers to comply with the ruling.

The ruling galvanized residents who want to define marriage in the state constitution, which would trump the high court ruling.

However, the amendment process requires another legislative vote before it could even go before the people, making 2006 the earliest opportunity for a vote.

“So for at least two and a half years, gay people will be able to marry, and that’s what has upset non-Massachusetts folks the most,” said Arline Isaacson, an official with the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

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