Gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, ruled the California Supreme Court today.
In a 4-3 decision, the court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
"We determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union ‘between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples,” wrote Chief Justice Ronald George for the court’s majority.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the ruling will take effect in 30 days.
With reference to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in M vs H, the California justices noted that any term other than “marriage” would be a mark of second-class citizenship.
"This is a historic and landmark day for those who value fairness and opportunity,” said Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who argued the case on behalf of 14 same-sex couples and two organizations, Equality California and Our Family Coalition. “The court’s decision today upheld the highest ideals of equality that are embodied in the California Constitution."
California joins Massachusetts as the second state to recognize marriage for same-sex couples. But as the Human Rights Campaign notes, same-sex couples still do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state, because of the “so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act."
A coalition of religious and social conservative groups is trying to get a vote on the November 2008 ballot that would ban gay marriage in the state. If passed, it would overturn today court’s decision.
California’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, supported today’s ruling.
"I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling,” he said. “Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."