California gay weddings will start on 16 June 2008

Editor’s note: After the California Supreme Court handed down its ruling last month in favour of same-sex marriage, applications were submitted for a stay, on the ground that a petition was being collected to include a proposal in the November election that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The California government under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger however filed an opposition to any delay. The court voted 4-3 to reject applications for a stay.

Source: Agence France-Presse
4 June 2008

California’s top court says gay marriage ruling stays

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — California’s top court Wednesday refused to go back on a decision paving the way towards gay marriage and said it would come into force on June 16.

“The California Supreme Court today filed an order in the marriage cases, denying requests to stay its decision until after the November 2008 election and denying petitions for rehearing,” the court said in a statement.

The decision would “become final on June 16 at 5:00 pm” (0000 GMT June 17), it added.

Opponents of same-sex marriage had appealed to the court to suspend its historic ruling which de facto legalized gay unions by annuling a discriminatory civil code.

Under the May 15 ruling the court said all California couples have a “basic civil right” to marry “without regard to their sexual orientation.”

California is now only the second US state after Massachusetts to legalize unions between homosexuals.

The issue looks set again to become a heated election year issue in 2008, after numerous US states during the 2006 midterm vote had ballot measures on same-sex marriage. Such measures in the past have had the effect of boosting conservative turnout at the polls.

According to the website of the California secretary of state, gay marriage opponents collected the 694,354 signatures necessary to put an initiative on the California ballot on November 4, the same day US voters choose the next president and members of Congress.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate on social issues, has already said he opposes the initiative and that he will respect the ruling of the state supreme court, despite his previous opposition to gay marriage.

The initiative comes as public opinion in the state appears more and more open to homosexual marriage.

The Field Institute published a study on May 28 showing 52 percent of Californians supported homosexual marriage compared to 41 percent against. That poll was a sharp contrast to one carried out in 1977, when 59 percent of Californians surveyed rejected gay marriage, with only 28 percent in favor.

California is the country’s most populous state with some 37 million residents, and there is nothing to stop gay couples from outside the state getting married there.

Several gay celebrities such as chat-show hostess Ellen DeGeneres and actor George Takei, who played Mr Sulu in Star Trek, have said they now plan to marry their long-time partners.

The court ruling followed a four-year legal battle waged by backers of same-sex marriage, including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and could affect the lives of tens of thousands of people.

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