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San Francisco asks Calif. high court to legalize ‘gay marriage’

April 9, 2007

The city of San Francisco joined a host of liberal activist groups April 2 in filing legal briefs asking the California Supreme Court to overturn the state's current laws and legalize "gay marriage."

The city of San Francisco joined a host of liberal activist groups April 2 in filing legal briefs asking the California Supreme Court to overturn the state's current laws and legalize "gay marriage."

The justices will hear oral arguments later this year or early next year in the case, which could have a significant impact on the rest of the country if marriage is redefined in the nation's most populous state. A California appeals court ruled against "gay marriage" last October.

At issue is a California law passed by voters in 2000 that protects the natural, traditional definition of marriage. Known as Proposition 22, it passed with 61 percent of the vote. The state also has other laws on the books that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

"The marriage exclusion tells lesbians and gay men that they are less worthy than child abusers, or sex offenders, or convicts in prison for murder," the city's attorneys argued in a 98-page legal brief, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. "Because after all, those people do have the right to get married."

Separate legal briefs were filed by a coalition of "gay marriage" advocates, including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

California already recognizes same-sex domestic partnerships, which grant homosexual couples the legal benefits of marriage. The advocacy groups, though, say the law isn't enough.

"We are hopeful that the California Supreme Court will recognize that same-sex couples form committed relationships just like straight couples and shouldn't be barred from the dignity and universal recognition that comes with marriage," ACLU attorney Alex Cleghorn said in a statement. "While domestic partnerships provide families with some legal protections, the marriage ban is a painful reminder that same-sex relationships are considered unworthy of marriage."

Several pro-family groups also are involved in the case. Among those is Liberty Counsel, which is representing Campaign for California Families in asking the high court to uphold the current marriage law.

"The city's argument that marriage discriminates against homosexual relationships," Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement, "misunderstands the purpose of marriage which is to promote stable relationships between men and women, which is the only union where national procreation can occur. It also misunderstands the importance of gender in families. Gender makes a significant difference in the well being of children.

"The city isn't arguing for a minor change in marriage, but for a deconstruction of the institution of marriage. The essence of marriage rooted in our history has always been union of one man and one woman. We have never allowed, for good reason, a myriad of diverse human relationships united under the banner of marriage."

In fact, two state courts last year said procreation and childrearing could be used as legitimate reasons not to legalize "gay marriage." Although the decisions out of New York and Washington aren't binding on California, they nonetheless could have some influence, as courts often read the opinions of other courts.

Washington Supreme Court Justice Barbara A. Madsen, writing for the majority, said the state legislature "was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, [which is] essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children's biological parents."

California has no constitutional marriage amendment. Although one could be placed on the ballot through the petition process, a division among conservatives has prevented any proposed amendment from getting off the ground. The disagreement has focused on how strongly an amendment should be worded.

Massachusetts remains the only state to recognize "gay marriage," although a marriage decision from Maryland's highest court is expected any week.

MASS. 'MARRIAGES' RECORDED — Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick April 3 ordered state officials to record the marriage licenses of 26 out-of-state homosexual couples that had been blocked by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney prevented the licenses from being recorded in the registry of vital records and statistics because, he said, state law prevented any marriage license from being issued to an out-of-state couple if the couple's home state wouldn't recognize it. A state high court subsequently supported Romney's position, although the 26 licenses were issued in May 2004, before the court ruled.

"It's a simple gesture to include the information on the register," Patrick said, according to the Associated Press. "Keeping it out was the gimmick."

But Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, disagreed.

"Governor Patrick is placing his personal preference above the law, and that can never be justified especially as the state's highest constitutional officer," Mineau said in a statement.

Despite Patrick's order, the licenses won't be recognized outside of Massachusetts. The state high courts issued a 6-1 decision early last year saying that a 1913 law prevents out-of-state homosexual couples from acquiring a license unless it would be recognized in the couple's home state.

(Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press in Nashville, Tenn.)

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