- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

Because of an editing error, The Washington Times incorrectly reported the sexual orientation of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Mr. Newsom is heterosexual.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California state appeals court in San Francisco will consider today whether a trial judge erred in declaring unconstitutional the state’s marriage laws, which San Francisco’s mayor contravened by issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

The 1st District Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear six hours of arguments in as many related cases — four of them filed by the city and by lawyers for 20 couples seeking the right to “wed” and two brought by groups that want to maintain the status quo barring same-sex unions.

Although any ruling is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court, advocates on both sides say the stakes remain high at the intermediate court. New York’s highest court upheld that state’s marriage laws Thursday. High courts in New Jersey and Washington state are deliberating cases. But it is California, home to more same-sex couples than any other state, where a pro-homosexual ruling would have the most impact.

“California is the most diverse state in the country, and the homosexual community has achieved a kind of visibility and integration here that is unlike any state,” said Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund who is representing couples in both California and Washington.

The appeals that will be heard today were brought by California’s attorney general and two groups opposed to same-sex “marriage.” They followed San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer’s March 2005 ruling that the state’s marriage laws violated the civil rights of homosexuals by denying them “the basic human right to marry a person of one’s choice” and by discriminating on the basis of one’s sex and sexual orientation.

Deputy Attorney General Christopher Krueger said he plans to offer the appeals court the same argument he presented to Judge Kramer — that it is up to lawmakers to determine the marriage laws.

“In defending the law, we are saying it’s rational to defer to the legislative process in setting policy in such a sensitive area,” Mr. Krueger said. A similar argument carried the day in the New York case.

Also challenging the trial court’s reasoning are the Campaign for Children and Families and the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund. They are arguing that Judge Kramer exceeded his mandate when he struck down a 2000 voter initiative that prevented California from recognizing same-sex “marriages” performed elsewhere.

Mathew Staver, who represents Campaign for California Families, said the fact that New York’s judges cited marriage’s role in promoting procreation makes him optimistic that a California court would accept similar reasoning.

“Having this decision from New York state’s highest court is a huge momentum builder for our argument,” Mr. Staver said. “New York is a big state, it’s an influential state, it’s not a conservative court. Yet it voted 4-2 to uphold marriage, and it did it on the same rationale we are arguing in California.”

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