Delay Gay Marriage, California Court Urged

Daily News Article   —   Posted on May 16, 2008

(by Cheryl Wetzstein, – Traditional values groups will ask the California Supreme Court to stay its landmark decision legalizing gay marriage until the voters can weigh in in November, warning of a “chaotic” situation if it is implemented sooner.

The high court’s ruling yesterday doesn’t take effect for at least 30 days, said Andrew Pugno, campaign director for, a coalition of groups sponsoring a ballot measure on marriage.

“We are going to go to the court within the next two weeks and bring to the court’s attention that the marriage amendment that would in essence overrule the court … is going be on the November ballot,” he said. The coalition will ask the high court to stay its decision until after the November vote.

Otherwise, “it would be very chaotic and to no one’s benefit to redefine marriage for only four months, or over the summertime,” said Mr. Pugno, who is a lawyer. “They would be better off to just let it go to a vote of the people.”

Mr. Pugno said his group will prepare its request carefully because “stays are not common.”

The marriage amendment will be on the ballot regardless, he said. If it passes, the words of the voter-approved Proposition 22 – “Only the marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” – will be added to the state constitution, even though the high court yesterday declared those same words unconstitutional.

Adding the Proposition 22 marriage definition to the state constitution would overrule the court, because its decision was based on the current constitution, Mr. Pugno added.

“The only thing that can derail an amendment to the state constitution is a federal claim … and there’s none of that in this case,” he said.

Gay rights groups, which were elated with the 4-3 court ruling, have pledged to defeat the amendment.

“The California secretary of state has not yet determined if this discriminatory amendment has qualified for the November ballot,” a coalition that includes Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint press release.

Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, said in the statement that the groups “are confident that Californians will respect the court’s ruling for fairness and opportunity and affirm that lesbian and gay Californians deserve full equality under the law.”

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports their position.

“I respect the court’s decision, and as governor, I will uphold its ruling,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican. “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.”

State officials are moving to accommodate the court’s ruling.

The Judicial Council of California yesterday advised state officials to prepare to handle marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

“The decision directs state officials who supervise the enforcement of the state’s marriage laws to ensure that local officials comply with the court’s ruling and permit same-sex couples to marry,” the council said in a statement.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who in 2004 ordered his office to perform gay marriages, said yesterday that he would start issuing marriage licenses again as soon as possible.

Gay couples, meanwhile, are making wedding plans.

“We have waited more than 50 years for the opportunity to marry,” said Phyllis Lyon, 83, who is a plaintiff in the case with her partner, Del Martin, 87.

“We are thrilled that this day has finally come,” she said through her attorneys at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Other organizations supporting the ruling are the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Organization for Women and Our Family Coalition.

Traditional values organizations that criticized the ruling included Concerned Women for America, the Alliance Defense Fund, the National Organization for Marriage, and the California Family Council.

“This shocking decision is a wake-up call for the majority of California’s citizens, whose votes have been rendered worthless by the Supreme Court’s disregard for the democratic system,” said Ron Prentice, executive director of the California Family Council. “In November, the people will have an opportunity to overrule the court’s decision by passing a constitutional amendment – and California’s voters must respond in strength and number.”

“It’s going to be a long summer,” Mr. Pugno said.

Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at


1. a) Define stay as used in paragraph 1.
b) Why are traditional values groups asking the California Supreme Court to stay its decision legalizing gay marriage?

2. What does Proposition 22 state?

3. What will happen if Prop 22 passes?

4. How did California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger react to the Court’s ruling?

5. a) Define dissent as used in Supreme Court rulings when some judges make a “dissenting opinion.”
b) Justice Carol Corrigan did not agree with the majority. In her dissenting opinion she made reference to the 2000 initiative by which the people of California voted to ban same sex marriage:
“In my view, Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages. But I, and this court, must acknowledge that a majority of Californians hold a different view, and have explicitly said so by their vote. This court can overrule a vote of the people only if the Constitution compels us to do so. Here, the Constitution does not. Therefore, I must dissent.”
What do you think of Justice Corrigan’s reason for dissenting from the majority opinion?

6. Justice Marvin Baxter also opposed the majority ruling. In his dissenting opinion he said:
“History confirms the importance of the judiciary’s constitutional role as a check against majoritarian abuse. Still, courts must use caution when exercising the potentially transformative authority to articulate constitutional rights. Otherwise, judges with limited accountability risk infringing upon our society’s most basic shared premise – the People’s general right, directly or through their chosen legislators, to decide fundamental issues of public policy for themselves. Judicial restraint is particularly appropriate where, as here, the claimed constitutional entitlement is of recent conception and challenges the most fundamental assumption about a basic social institution.
The majority has violated these principles. It simply does not have the right to erase, then recast, the age-old definition of marriage, as virtually all societies have understood it, in order to satisfy its own contemporary notions of equality and justice.”
What do you think of Justice Baxter’s reasoning for his dissent?

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  • In a 4-3 decision on May 14, 2008, the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
  • The court’s ruling invalidated a state ballot initiative that passed with 61 percent of the vote in 2000 banning same-sex marriage in the state.
  • A state constitutional amendment (Proposition 22) banning same-sex marriage is expected to be on the ballot this November.

The seven justices on the California Supreme Court and how they voted in Thursday’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage:
-Chief Justice Ronald George – wrote the majority opinion striking down the state ban on same-sex marriage
-Justice Joyce Kennard – joined the majority opinion
-Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar – voted with the majority
-Justice Carlos Moreno – voted with the majority

-Justice Marvin Baxter – wrote the dissenting opinion
-Justice Ming Chin – joined the dissenting opinion
-Justice Carol Corrigan – wrote a separate dissenting opinion


Read the Supreme Court’s ruling, including the dissenting judges’ opinions at 
(NOTE: This is a PDF document. It will probably take a few minutes to open.)