Justices have 90 days to decide whether to take case
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) | Nov 13, 8:31 PM
Whether gays and lesbians have the right to marry in California moved to the state's highest court Monday, a month after an appeals court ruled against same-sex marriage.
The city of San Francisco filed the appeal to the California Supreme Court, claiming that laws authorizing only heterosexual marriages are unconstitutional discrimination. A lower court had agreed, but an appeals court last month reversed that decision.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that, among other things, it was not the judiciary's role to define marriage — as 61 percent of California voters in 2000 declared marriage as a union between a man and a woman under Proposition 22.
About a dozen gay and lesbian couples who also sued California are expected to file an appeal Tuesday, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Two of the original plaintiffs, Cristy Chung and Lancy Woo, are opting out of the appeal because they are breaking up.
"We are no longer plaintiffs in this lawsuit because, after 18 years, we have made the difficult decision to separate," the couple said in a prepared statement.
The two said they, however, remained "fully committed to the principle that couples should be able to marry without regard to their sexual orientation."
The seven-member Supreme Court is not obligated to review the appellate court's decision. If it does not, the ruling stands.
If the justices take the case, a decision on same-sex marriage is likely a year or more away. The justices have 90 days to announce their intentions.
Massachusetts is the nation's only state authorizing same-sex marriage.
Last month, the California appeals court voted 2-1 to uphold the state's existing marriage laws, ruling in part that those laws do not discriminate because gays and lesbians get most all the rights of marriage the state confers to heterosexual married couples.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom put the marriage debate in the national spotlight by allowing same-sex couples to get married at City Hall in 2004. California's justices halted the wedding spree and voided the 4,037 marriage licenses while sidestepping the core constitutional question, ruling the mayor did not have authority to make marriage law. The justices, however, invited a challenge to whether banning same-sex marriage was discrimination - a challenge that reached the court Monday.
The high court, nevertheless, has a history of upholding legislation, whether it required employers to provide contraceptives in their health plans or making it a crime to knowingly lodge a false complaint against a police officer.