California's Supreme Court on August 12 voided the marriages of nearly 4,000 homosexual couples who wed in San Francisco last spring. The justices said that Mayor Gavin Newsom did not have the authority to flout state marriage laws.
Ruling unanimously, the court said local officials may not ignore laws they disagree with. Justices sidestepped the larger question on the constitutionality of civil marriage rights for gay couples.
State law and a voter-approved ballot initiative both define marriage in California as between a man and a woman.
Newsom's challenge, along with a court ruling in Massachusetts that allowed gay marriages starting in May, prompted President Bush to publicly support a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
In a separate 5-2 vote, the court declared that the 4,000 marriage licenses issued between February 12, when Newsom issued the first certificate, and March 11, when the court ordered a halt, are "void and of no legal effect."
"Instead of helping his cause, Mayor Newsom has set back the same-sex marriage agenda and laid the foundation for the promarriage movement to once and for all win this battle to preserve traditional marriage," said Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel.
Other legislative efforts to restrict gay marriage are having mixed results in the courts. On August 3, a Washington King County Superior Court judge declared the state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional, but stayed his decision so the issue could be decided by the state's Supreme Court. Three weeks later, a federal judge in Washington state ruled the federal DOMA to be constitutional. The ruling says there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage.
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