California high court set to rule on gay marriage |

California high court set to rule on gay marriage

SAN FRANCISCO ” The California Supreme Court will rule Tuesday on the validity of a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, a decision that will end months of speculation over whether gay couples can resume marrying in the state.

The high court announced the pending opinion on its Web site Friday morning.

Its seven justices are considering a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8 as having been put on the ballot improperly. The constitutional amendment approved by voters in November overruled the court’s 4-3 ruling from a year ago that briefly legalized same-sex unions.

The court also will decide whether to uphold the marriages of an estimated 18,000 gay couples who wed before the measure passed with 52 percent of the vote.

The election came after a contentious $83 million campaign that made Proposition 8 the most expensive ballot measure on a social issue in the nation’s history.

Gay rights advocates ” including same-sex couples, local governments and civil rights groups ” have asked the court to throw out Proposition 8 on procedural grounds. They argued that the initiative revised the state constitution’s equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree its sponsors needed the Legislature’s approval to submit it to voters.

Several justices gave that argument a skeptical reception during a March 5 hearing, and court observers have doubted the Supreme Court would abrogate California’s vigorous citizen initiative process by invalidating the ban.

Since then, three other states ” Iowa, Maine and Vermont ” have joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in making same-sex marriage legal. Meanwhile, efforts are under way to pass gay marriage bills in New Hampshire and New York. These successes for same-sex marriage advocates have offered California gay rights leaders renewed hope.

Same-sex marriage supporters are nevertheless gearing up to return to the ballot box in an effort to repeal Proposition 8, if the justices do not nullify it. The state’s largest gay rights groups have started raising money, airing television advertisements and recruiting volunteers with an eye toward qualifying a ballot measure next year or in 2012.

If the court agrees that Proposition 8 was an illegal revision, its backers could try asking state lawmakers to place another initiative limiting marriage to a man and a woman on next year’s ballot.

The prospects for such a bill are uncertain. The Democratic-controlled California Legislature has twice passed measures to legalize same-sex marriage, but they were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to post its decision on its Web site,, at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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