California’s Supreme Court agrees to rule on gay marriage
California’s Supreme Court agreed last week to decide whether opponents of same-sex marriage have the right to appeal against a decision that legalised gay weddings here in August 2010.
A panel of judges agreed unanimously to hear the case – which turns on whether campaigners have the right to legal appeal, in place of the state’s authorities – “as early as September”.
Under judicial guidelines, they would then have to make a decision within 90 days.
The decision came in response to a request by a US federal appeals court, which asked the Californian tribunal last month to help it rule on legalising gay marriage, which remains banned here amid the legal wrangling.
In a ruling last August, a federal judge said a ban on same-sex marriage in California – imposed by the November 2008 referendum measure known as Prop 8 – was discriminatory and violated the US Constitution. But anti-gay wedding group ProtectMarriage appealed, and a week later a federal judge agreed to maintain the ban pending the appeals process that started on December 6.
Critics argue that California’s voters made their intentions known when 52 per cent voted for Prop 8.
The vote came only six months after the state’s Supreme Court reversed a previous ban on same-sex weddings – sending gays and lesbians flocking to marry.
Some 18,000 homosexual couples tied the knot between May and November that year, when gay weddings were briefly allowed.
Experts believe the legal fight is almost certain to end up before the US Supreme Court in around 18 months, once appeals hearings in lower courts have run their course.
Only the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the US capital Washington, currently recognise gay marriage.