Californian ban on gay marriage overturned

IN a monumental victory for the gay rights movement, the California Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage yesterday, in a ruling that would allow same-sex couples in the US’s biggest state to tie the knot.

Domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage, the judges ruled 4-3 in striking down the ban.

Outside the courthouse, gay marriage supporters cried and cheered as the news spread.

Jeanie Rizzo, one of the plaintiffs, called Pali Cooper, her partner of 19 years, and asked, “Pali, will you marry me?”

“This is a very historic day. This is just such freedom for us,” Rizzo said. “This is a message that says all of us are entitled to human dignity.”

Two dozen gay and lesbian couples and gay rights groups sued the city of San Francisco in March 2004 after the court halted the month-long wedding march that took place when Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the doors of City Hall to same-sex marriages.

“Today the California Supreme Court took a giant leap to ensure that everybody — not just in the state of California, but throughout the country — will have equal treatment under the law,” said city attorney Dennis Herrera, who argued the case for San Francisco.

The challenge for gay rights advocates, however, is not over.

A coalition of religious and social conservative groups is attempting to put a measure on the November ballot that would enshrine laws banning gay marriage in the state constitution.

The Secretary of State is expected to rule by the end of June whether the sponsors gathered enough signatures to qualify the marriage amendment, similar to ones enacted in 26 other states.

If voters pass the measure in November, it would trump the court’s decision.

Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would have granted marriage rights to same-sex couples, said in a news release that he respected the court’s decision and “will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”


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