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Gay rights groups lose a round

State Supreme Court rejects bid to keep a ban on same-sex marriage off the November ballot.

July 17, 2008|Maura Dolan | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — A voter initiative to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage will remain on the November ballot, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Wednesday.

The court issued a brief order rejecting arguments that the initiative, Proposition 8, was an illegal constitutional revision and that voters had been misled when they signed petitions to put it on the ballot. The decision, reached in closed session during the court's weekly conference, cleared the way for what some observers expect to be a close vote on the marriage measure.

The signatures for the initiative had already been gathered when the California Supreme Court decided 4 to 3 in May to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage. Same sex couples began marrying in California last month.

Gay rights groups issued a statement Wednesday expressing disappointment with the court's decision.

"Californians do not want their Constitution to single out people to be treated differently," said the statement from Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Marriage Equality and the American Civil Liberties Union. "We are confident they will vote no in November to make sure everyone is treated equally under the law."

Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, said he was confident that the measure would pass.

"If the people have an opportunity to participate in the democratic process, they will vote for marriage as one man and one woman," said Staver, whose group litigates on behalf of Christian causes.

"Those who push for same-sex marriage are willing to destroy both marriage and democracy to achieve a selfish result," he said.

Another Christian group, the Alliance Defense Fund, called the court's decision "appropriate."

Supporters of same-sex marriage "were desperate to evade the democratic process," said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the fund. "We're pleased the court did not allow them to silence the people's voice this November."

If approved by voters, Proposition 8, called the "California Marriage Protection Act," would add a provision to the state Constitution that says, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The Campaign for Children and Families, which opposes same-sex marriage, said it was celebrating the court's decision.

"This is great news, and not unexpected in light of the homosexual activists' undemocratic, intolerant and extraordinary attack upon the voters' right to vote," said Randy Thomasson, the group's president. "Fortunately, activist judges are more used to inventing new 'laws' out of thin air than striking voter-qualified initiatives from the ballot."

After Wednesday's decision, Kevin Norte, a lawyer who helped inspire one of the legal arguments for removing the ballot initiative, sent friends a note asking that in lieu of a wedding gift they donate to a campaign to defeat the initiative.

Kevin and his longtime partner, Don Norte, went to Tiffany's for wedding rings on the day the court overturned the marriage ban. They plan to exchange vows this week.

"I am getting personal because I will do almost anything to save my marriage," wrote Norte, a Republican. "Wouldn't you?

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maura.dolan@latimes.com

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