California's Same-sex Marriage Case Begins

SAN FRANCISCO – The debate over whether same-sex marriage should be legalized in California continues today.

San Francisco Superior Judge Richard Kramer will be hearing oral arguments in consolidated challenges to the state’s marriage laws, which define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The hearing began approximately 9:30 am as the last attendants were admitted into courtroom 304 of the Civic Center Courthouse, which stands across the street from the City Hall where some 4,000 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses between February and March.

The California Supreme Court halted the marriages on March 11 and ruled that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who allowed the marriages, overstepped his powers. Furthermore, the marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples were also invalidated by the Court.

Despite such blows, the City of San Francisco and a dozen same-sex couples will argue today that prohibiting gays from marrying violates their right to equal protection under the law and will ask the judge to declare the current marriage laws unconstitutional.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s office will be defending California’s Proposition 22 - the 2000 California initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

According to the state, any complaints with the current marriage definition should be taken up to the Legislature or resolved through a ballot proposition submitted to voters.

Joining the defense will be Rena Lindevaldsen, senior counsel for Liberty Counsel, representing Campaign for California Families, and Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund, representing Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“We are asking the court to declare that California’s marriage laws are constitutional,” Lavy, senior vice president of ADF’s Marriage Litigation Center, said Tuesday in a press release. “The California Constitution always has and still does support the concept that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

Both the Campaign for California Families and the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had requested an emergency stay for a bill that would grant gay domestic partnerships nearly all the same spousal benefits as married couples, excluding the ability to file joint income taxes. A Sacramento Superior court judge had approved the domestic partnership benefits bill in a September ruling. Yesterday, a state appeals court denied the appeal, allowing the bill to take effect on Jan. 1.

Kramer has given no indication on how he will rule in the California case. A decision is expected next year.