California high court denies bid to halt gay marriages

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 8:30 am

It came to a quiet end. After five years of litigation – a polarizing battle that pitted conservative advocates against civil rights proponents – same-sex marriage will likely stand as law in California.

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused without explanation and without dissent to hear arguments in a lawsuit aimed at reviving Proposition 8.

"I'm just ecstatic," said Beverly Kearney, a Sacramento same-sex marriage advocate with the Love Is Love Movement. "Equality and civil rights have finally won.

"This decision says we're just like everyone else. It validates who we are. It's been a long, hard fight. Hopefully, we're done."

The 2008 voter-approved ban on gay marriage was effectively struck down on June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the initiative's sponsors had no legal standing to argue in court in favor of the measure.

"The California Supreme Court's choice not to address the merits of our case, like the U.S. Supreme Court's choice to avoid the merits, leaves grave doubts about the future of the initiative process in the state," Andrew Pugno, author of Proposition 8, said in a written statement.

"Now voters will be less confident than ever that their votes will mean something. When politicians disregard the law, and the courts refuse to get involved, what are we left with?"

Early in 2010, a federal district judge struck down Proposition 8, ruling that the measure violated the U.S. Constitution. By his directive, same-sex marriages remained on hold while the appeals process continued.

In June, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court's action, an appellate court lifted that stay, and same-sex marriages resumed in the state.

Pugno and other Proposition 8 supporters unsuccessfully sought U.S. Supreme Court intervention in the matter. On July 12, they filed the California Supreme Court suit contending that state officials lacked the authority not to uphold Proposition 8.

The state's highest court refused to grant an emergency injunction that would have again put gay and lesbian weddings on hold.

On Wednesday, Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris said in a statement: "Once again, equality and freedom triumph in California. … I applaud the court's decision, and my office will continue to defend the civil rights of all Californians."

Legal experts said it is likely, though not certain, that Wednesday's action will bring the state's battle over same-sex marriage to a close.

"It's theoretically possible that some other county clerk will try to go back to federal court and seek a statement that he doesn't have to issue marriage licenses," said UC Davis Law School Associate Dean Vikram Amar, a constitutional law professor.

"But I'd be quite shocked by that. There's a concept in law called finality. At some point, everyone has to accept the reality of what's happened. I think we're at that point."

Call The Bee's Anita Creamer, (916) 321-1136. Follow her in Twitter @AnitaCreamer.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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