News, Wit & Commentary for Lesbians
JIC Post:By Ann Rostow, Planet Out NetworkThe California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that the justices will not take immediate review of the gay marriage cases now pending before a state appellate court.The 5-0 decision (with one justice abstaining and one vacancy) adds at least a year to the litigation. The cases now continue through the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, after a lower court ruled in favour of same-sex couples last March.According to Courtney Joslin, staff attorney at the National Centre for Lesbian Rights, the state's briefs in the signature marriage case, Woo vs Lockyer, are due before the appellate court on September 19. The NCLR will have 30 days to respond. No date for oral arguments has been set, but they will presumably take place early next year.By this timetable, one would not expect the question of marriage equality to reach the California Supreme Court until late next year. Add another year of briefing, arguments and deliberation to that, and the Golden State's same-sex couples will probably remain in limbo until late 2007 or early 2008.Joslin said the decision was disappointing, but not surprising.In addition to Woo vs Lockyer, three smaller cases have been lodged against the state of California by same-sex couples seeking marriage rights. Right-wing groups in turn have filed two cases of their own against the City and County of San Francisco and Mayor Gavin Newsom, challenging Newsom's decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in February of 2004 on state constitutional grounds. Although the cases are coordinated, they remain separate. In July, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, along with his legal rivals at the NCLR, asked the California Supreme Court to take direct review of Woo vs Lockyer and the three similar cases. By declining, the high court followed the examples set in New Jersey and New York, where in each case the high courts forced marriage litigants to plead their cause before state appellate courts.In New York, Lambda Legal filed appellate briefs this week in one of two outstanding freedom-to-marry cases in the Empire State. New Jersey plaintiffs lost before the appellate court, and are preparing for a final showdown at the state high court.In Washington, by contrast, the state Supreme Court did accept direct review of two marriage cases last year. Oral arguments were held last March in that suit, and a decision that could, in theory, make Washington the second state in the nation to allow lesbian and gay marriage could be handed down tomorrow, or months from now.Meanwhile, California's state Legislature will continue to debate a bill to legalise same-sex marriage when lawmakers return from their summer recess. That bill, authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, is pending before the Senate Appropriations Committee.Also, California opponents of gay couples' rights continue to collect signatures for two rival proposals that would amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and roll back the state's domestic partner rights, a registry system that offers most marriage rights to participating partners. If successful, one or more of those anti-gay measures would reach voters in next June's primary.
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