The California Supreme Court announced today that they will hear arguments over the state’s ban on gay marriage on March 4th in San Francisco.
The three-hour hearing will consider a 2004 lawsuit filed on behalf of Equality California, the Our Family Coalition, and 15 same-sex couples denied marriage under the ballot measure approved by voters in 2000. Oral arguments will be presented by Shannon Price Minter of the National Center For Lesbian Rights, with co-counsel provided by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and two private law firms.
When the lawsuits were first filed in 2004, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that denying all Californians the right to marry was in violation of the state constitution. That ruling was then overturned by the Court of Appeals. Shortly after that, the state Supreme Court agreed to review the suits to consider the constitutional issue. Dozens of California municipalities and counties and more than 250 religious and civil rights organizations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of marriage equality. The Supreme Court usually issues their decision within ninety days of a hearing.
The California legislature defined marriage as between a man and a woman in 1977. It was that legislation that the voters reaffirmed in 2000. Since then, led by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-SF), the state legislature has twice passed measures that would permit gay couples to marry, most recently in 2007, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, saying that the matter was for the state Supreme Court to decide, which will now finally happen. The March 4th hearing will be carried live on the California Channel.
Even if the Supreme Court rules favorably on the side of marriage equality, conservative and religious groups are already planning a new ballot initiative to write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution and to overturn existing domestic partners laws.
And round and round we go.
It’s unclear to me how soon after a favorable ruling that gay couples could marry. Can somebody help clarify this? I suspect that as in Massachusetts, once the dam is broken and the world continue to keep spinning, opponents will have a very tough battle for a new initiative.