SACRAMENTO (BP)–The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 4 in a case that could lead to “gay marriage” being legalized this year and thrust the issue once more into a presidential election.
The seven justices heard arguments for a longer-than-usual three hours and are expected to issue their ruling within 90 days.
The case began in 2004, when the city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The Supreme Court ruled then that the licenses were being issued in violation of state law, although the justices didn’t deal with the hot-button question of whether the state’s ban on “gay marriage” violated the California Constitution. The city filed suit after it lost that case, seeking to have the state law changed.
At issue is Proposition 22, a law passed in 2000 to prohibit “gay marriage” and protect the natural definition of marriage. Voters approved it by a margin of 61-39 percent.
The justices peppered lawyers for both sides with tough questions.
“Over 60 percent of voters said they weren’t ready for that change,” Justice Carol A. Corrigan told lawyers supportive of “gay marriage.” “… Is it better for this court to decide or the people of California to decide?”
But Chief Justice Ronald George asked attorneys for the other side how the current law was any different than past laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The current state law, he said, “defines marriage by whom it excludes.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, three of the justices indicated they would uphold the current law and one justice indicated that “gay marriage” should be legalized. The other three justices, the Times said, didn’t indicate a position.
A victory for homosexual activists in the case would be their biggest yet, being it would be in the most populous state in the country.
“California’s a bellwether state. What happens here, blows east,” Larry Bowler, a retired deputy sheriff from Sacramento, told Reuters. He opposes “gay marriage.”
Attorneys for two pro-family groups — the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Counsel — appeared before the court. ADF was representing the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, Liberty Counsel representing the Campaign for California Families.
“Marriage is more than a private relationship between two people who love each other,” Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said in a statement. “While it is a private relationship, marriage serves a public purpose to preserve society’s interest in procreation and to provide the optimal environment for children. The state has an interest in protecting an institution that predates government in order to encourage responsible procreation among opposite-sex couples.
“Among opposite-sex couples, procreation is sometimes planned and sometimes unplanned,” he said. “Children are thus the natural consequence of opposite-sex relationships. Providing for the next generation is essential to any society, but providing an environment that encourages stable relationships for the well-being of children is critically important. Marriage thus provides encouragement for opposite-sex couples to unite for the sake of children. Same-sex couples do not need marriage to encourage their unions, because such relationships never produce unplanned children.”
Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund said, “The government should promote and encourage strong families. In this case, marriage laws that will do that are under attack by political special interests wishing to further their agenda.
“The law California voters passed defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Lavy added. “Californians know this is the foundation for strong families. But certain special interest groups are trying to bypass the democratic process by asking the court to redefine marriage.”
California already has a domestic partnerships law granting same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to issue its own “gay marriage” decision any day, meaning that two such decisions could be handed down this year, months before the general election.
Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press