California court upholds gay marriage ban

Tue May 26, 2009 7:40pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage and Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California's supreme court backed a ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, upholding a voter-approved proposition defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but said the marriages last year of 18,000 same-sex couples were still legal.

The court, which last year unexpectedly opened the door to same-sex unions in the most populous U.S. state, bowed to the majority of California voters who passed the ban known as Proposition 8 last November.

The argument continued in San Francisco streets, where gay marriage backers vowed to continue the fight at the ballot box in 2010.

"We will not be moved. Repeal Prop 8!" shouted seated protesters who blocked off an intersection in a show of civil disobedience. Police began arresting them one by one.

DeWitt Hoard, 65, a black man who legally married another man in California last year, compared the gay rights fight to one for racial equality. "I've been on this road for a while," he said at the courthouse. "Now we can't marry? Yes we will, it will happen."

Social conservatives, too, vowed to fight. "If marriage were between two men society could not go on. It's not fear, it's just the way it should be," said college student Mike Choban, 18.

The court said the roughly 18,000 marriages that took place in the state between June and November last year remained valid since the ban was not retroactive. That leaves the state of 37 million people with a tiny group of married same-sex couples that cannot grow.

Gay rights advocates in the case had argued that a simple majority cannot be allowed to strip rights from a minority without undermining civil rights, but Proposition 8 supporters said the populist state constitution gave the majority the right to make fundamental changes through direct vote.   Continued...

<p>A same sex couple hug in front of a line of police before being arrested for blocking the streets in a civil disobedience act in San Francisco, California, May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Kimberly White</p>