Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Court appears split on same-sex marriage


The dissentious issue of same-sex matrimony appeared to divide the Golden State Supreme Court down the center Tuesday as the justnesses agonized over inquiries of tradition, favoritism and democratic authorities during a 3 1/2-hour hearing.

It have been almost four old age since the tribunal annulled the wedding ceremonies at San Francisco City Hallway of nearly 4,000 same-sex couples without deciding the constitutionality of the state law that prevented them from legally marrying.

The law is being challenged in four lawsuits by 23 couples and the metropolis of San Francisco, who reason that it represents favoritism - based on both grammatical gender and sexual orientation - and go againsts the cardinal right under the Golden State Fundamental Law to get married the spouse of one's choice.

But at Tuesday's hearing in San Francisco, a state lawyer argued that Golden State have met its duty to handle homosexuals and gay women equally, through laws that grant same-sex domestic spouses virtually the same rights as hubbies and wives, and is not discriminating by defining matrimony as the labor union of a adult male and a woman.

The state is entitled to "adhere to the common and traditional footing of marriage, while at the same clip providing all the rights and benefits associated with marriage" to same-sex partners, said Deputy Lawyer General Saint Christopher Krueger.

But Justice Carlos Moreno said the domestic spouse law, despite its benefits, still go forths same-sex couples in a separate position against their will.

"Are you saying that separate is equal here?" Moreno asked Krueger. Incredulity on tradition

Justice James Joyce Kennard commented acerbically on Krueger's supplication of tradition as a footing for the matrimony law, saying state laws once perpetuated a "long-standing tradition ... of treating a adult female as the place of her husband." And Head Justice Ronald Saint George said laws banning interracial matrimony also could have got been described as traditional before California's high tribunal overturned a crossbreeding law in 1948, the first such as opinion in the nation.

Other justices, however, said the definition of matrimony is an issue for state lawmakers and for the voters, who in 2000 approved Proposition 22, reaffirming the 1977 law that defined matrimony as the labor union of a adult male and a woman. Gov. Matthew Arnold Schwarzenegger cited Prop. 22 in twice vetoing measures that sought to legalize same-sex marriage.

"California is in the procedure of evolving its understanding" of marriage, said Justice Carol Corrigan. "Is it for this tribunal to decide, or is it for the people of Golden State to decide?"
Werdegar could be swing

Justices Ming Dynasty Chin and Marvin Baxter made similar comments. The result could be decided by Justice Kathryn Batch Werdegar, who have written some of the court's major civil rights opinions - including one that needed a landlady to lease an flat to an unmarried couple - but who seemed troubled Tuesday by the function that complainants were asking the tribunal to play.

When one recommend of same-sex matrimony argued that the clip have arrived for a ground-breaking regnant on the constitutional rights of homosexuals and lesbians, Werdegar asked, "Why is this the minute of truth, as opposing to 10 old age from now?"

She also observed that any opinion the tribunal issues could be overturned by the voters. Groups of spiritual conservativists already are circulating ballot measurements that would travel beyond Prop. 22 and amend the state Fundamental Law to ban same-sex marriage. One of the projected enterprises would also outlaw matrimonial benefits like those the state have granted to domestic partners.

The court's determination is owed within 90 days.

In ambitious the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, San Francisco's lawyer, Head Deputy City Lawyer Therese Stewart, argued that the difference between domestic partnership and matrimony is more than than nomenclature.

Although domestic partners have got the same rights as spouses to property, fiscal support and kid detention under Golden State law, Jimmy Stewart said, they miss the societal position of marriage, which "conveys loyalty and familiarity and commitment."

Chin was unmoved. "Doesn't that elevate rhetoric over reality?" he asked. Interracial marriage

The justnesses also had different positions of the 1948 opinion that overturned California's prohibition on interracial matrimony and in the procedure declared that people have got a cardinal right to get married their chosen partner.

Baxter said the court's statement must be understood "in the linguistic context of matrimony as traditionally defined," between a adult male and a woman.

But Saint George said the 1948 tribunal had spoken of "the right to fall in with the individual of one's choice" without expressly limiting that rule to interracial or male-female marriages. When Krueger, the state's lawyer, argued that the two lawsuits differ because the prohibition on interracial matrimony was motivated by bigotry, Saint George said the current law also "defines matrimony by whom it excludes."

The head justness invoked another state Supreme Court opinion - a 1966 determination forbiddance voter-permitted racial favoritism in lodging gross sales - in support of the rule that the tribunal can overrule the volition of the people when cardinal justness is at stake. Private groupings weigh in

The tribunal also heard from private organisations opposing same-sex marriage, which argued that the definition of matrimony is so firmly entrenched in the law, by history and tradition, that Judges have got no powerfulness to change it. They also contended that broadening the marriage law would weaken matrimony.

If same-sex matrimony were legalized, "I believe it would sabotage opposite-sex marriage," said lawyer Mathew Staver, representing the Political Campaign for Golden State Families.

Glen Lavy, an lawyer for the Prop. 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the matrimony law doesn't discriminating against homosexuals and lesbians, who are free to get married as long as they don't get married person of the same sex.

He also said the intent of state-sanctioned matrimony is to modulate reproduction by opposite-sex couples, an averment that drew disbelieving responses from respective justices. Corrigan suggested Lavy's principle would let the state to forbid matrimony between couples who were not able or unwilling to have got children.

The legal proceeding are titled In rhenium Marriage Cases, S147999.

What they said at state Supreme Court hearing

"Same-sex couples have got come up here today to praise marriage, not to bury it. (They) yearn for the privateness and regard that lone matrimony can convey them."

Attorney Claude Shannon Coiner of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, representing 15 same-sex couples

The state law "defines matrimony by whom it excludes."

Chief Justice Ronald George

"Is it for this tribunal to make up one's mind or is it for the people of Golden State to decide?"

Justice Carol Corrigan

"Why is this the minute of truth as opposing to 10 old age from now?"

Justice Kathryn Batch Werdegar

"We submit that when the state is acting so aggressively to protect the rights of domestic spouses and families, it's not irrational to keep the definition of matrimony that have stood the diagnostic test of time."

Deputy Lawyer General Saint Christopher Krueger, defending the state's matrimony law

"Are you saying that separate is equal here?"

Justice Carlos Moreno, questioning Krueger

"They are allowed to marry, but they are not allowed to constitute a same-sex couple and phone call it marriage."

Attorney Glen Lavy, representing the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Educational Fund, arguing that the current matrimony law makes not discriminating against homosexuals and lesbians

"Words matter. Name Calling matter."

San Francisco Head Deputy City Lawyer Therese Stewart, arguing for the importance of defining a same-sex human relationship as marriage

E-mail British Shilling Egelko at .

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