(05-26) 14:30 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- California voters legally outlawed same-sex marriage when they approved Proposition 8 in November, but the constitutional amendment did not dissolve the unions of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before the measure took effect, the state
The 6-1 decision upholding Prop. 8 was issued by the same court that declared a year ago that a state law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman violated the right to choose one's spouse and discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.
Prop. 8 undid that ruling by reinstating the definition of marriage that the court had struck down, this time as an amendment to the state Constitution. The author of last year's 4-3 decision, Chief Justice Ronald George, said today that the voters were within their rights to do so.
"All political power is inherent in the people," George said, quoting the Declaration of Rights in the state Constitution. He said the voters' power to amend their Constitution is limited - and might not include a measure that, for example, deprived same-sex couples of the right to raise a family - but that Prop. 8 did not exceed those limits.
Under California's domestic-partner law and anti-discrimination statutes, the chief justice said, "same-sex couples continue to enjoy the same substantive core benefits ... as those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, including the constitutional right to enter into an officially recognized and protected family relationship with the person of one's choice and to raise children."
George said voters have added "the sole, albeit significant, exception that the designation of 'marriage' is ... now reserved for opposite-sex couples." That was within their authority, he said, and any further change can come only at the ballot box.