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Calif. appeals court rules against ‘gay marriage’

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–A California appeals court panel upheld California’s marriage laws Oct. 5, ruling against “gay marriage” supporters and declaring that the definition of marriage is an issue for the state legislature or the citizens — and not the courts — to decide.

The 2-1 decision overturned a March 2005 ruling by a trial court judge, who said “gay marriage” should be legalized and that a 2000 voter-approved initiative that banned it violated the California constitution. Homosexual activists say they will appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.

“Courts simply do not have the authority to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage,” Justice William R. McGuiness wrote for the majority. “… The time may come when California chooses to expand the definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions. That change must come from democratic processes, however, not by judicial fiat.”

California voters passed a law in 2000, Proposition 22, that protected the natural definition of marriage and specifically banned “gay marriage.” It was adopted with 61 percent of the vote. But in 2004 the city of San Francisco and a host of liberal legal groups — including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — filed suit seeking to overturn Proposition 22 and the state’s other marriage laws and have “gay marriage” legalized.

The Oct. 5 decision adds to what has been an impressive string of appellate-level victories this year for pro-family groups. Among those, the supreme courts of New York and Washington state refused to legalize “gay marriage,” while the highest courts in Georgia and Tennessee affirmed the constitutionality of their state’s marriage amendments.

Another monumental decision likely is around the corner: Both sides of the issue expect the New Jersey Supreme Court to issue its “gay marriage” decision this month. New Jersey could become the second state in the nation to include homosexuals within its definition of marriage. Massachusetts was the first.

“The [California] court … recognized that political special interests shouldn’t trump what’s in the best interest of families and children,” Glen Lavy, an attorney with the conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, said in a news release. “Who’s more important: our children or special interest groups? This court rightly put people before politics.”

Mathew Staver, an attorney and president of Liberty Counsel, also applauded the ruling. ADF and Liberty Counsel both were involved in the case.

“To redefine marriage to include same-sex couples would abolish marriage and make gender irrelevant,” Staver said in a news release. “The result would be nonsensical and would have devastating effects on children and society. The California Court of Appeals followed the lead of other courts around the country in recognizing that judges should not re-write marriage laws with a stroke of a pen.”

In his ruling McGuiness rejected the argument by “gay marriage” supporters that current marriage laws discriminate against homosexuals.

“Constitutionally protected fundamental rights need not be defined so broadly that they will inevitably be exercised by everyone,” he wrote. “… Everyone has a fundamental right to ‘marriage,’ but, because of how this institution has been defined, this means only that everyone has a fundamental right to enter a public union with an opposite-sex partner. That such a right is irrelevant to a lesbian or gay person does not mean the definition of the fundamental right can be expanded by the judicial branch beyond its traditional moorings.”

Jennifer C. Pizer, an attorney for Lambda Legal, expressed optimism that the California Supreme Court eventually will rule for her side.

“This decision is a pit-stop on the long road to justice, not a detour,” she said in a statement.

But even if the state high court sides with conservatives, the cultural battle isn’t over in California. Last year the California legislature passed a bill that would legalize “gay marriage,” although Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides has vowed to sign the bill into law if he is elected and it makes it to his desk.

Conservatives in the state have pushed for a constitutional marriage amendment that would prevent the courts or the legislature from redefining marriage. But so far, a division among conservatives over an amendment’s language has prevented any amendment push from being successful.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust