Calif. Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

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The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. But it also ruled that an estimated 18,000 gay couples who wed before the law took effect will remain married.


Another big legal story comes this week in California, where the state Supreme Court put out a big ruling yesterday. It upheld Proposition 8 - that's the ban on same sex marriage that voters approved last year. Last night thousands of Prop 8 opponents rallied across California to protest the court ruling.

(Soundbite of protests)

Unidentified People: What do we want, equal rights! When do we want it, now! What do we want, equal rights…

INSKEEP: Some of the biggest crowds were in West Hollywood and that crowd included some gay couples who got married last year during the brief time that same sex marriage was legal in California.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports on how yesterday's ruling affects them.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Everything about the Cortez Adams household is picture book American family. Outside there's a green lawn surrounded by a white picket fence. Inside, Ruby and Buddy announce your arrival.

(Soundbite of dog barking)

GRIGSBY BATES: Sports equipment waits to be scooped up by two teenage sons when they arrive home from school. In the quiet, sunny kitchen, Katherine Cortez-Adams switches on a cable channel to get the news she and her spouse, Catlin(ph), have been dreading.

Ms. KATHERINE CORTEZ-ADAMS: It says on the television here, California's high court upholds voter-approved ban.

GRIGSBY BATES: She smacks the remote on the counter in frustration.

Ms. CORTEZ-ADAMS: We are, quote, "legal" - however, our friends, who didn't make the cut-off date, are not. They won't be able to get married in California.

GRIGSBY BATES: Katherine and Catlin were married three days before the state's voters streamed to the polls to ban same-sex marriage. The justices have decided to leave the 18,000 marriages like theirs that occurred from June through November intact. Katherine explains to Catlin how this will differentiate them from their social circle.

Ms. CORTEZ-ADAMS: I don't feel that we should be allowed to get married and some other couples shouldn't be allowed. How can I feel good about that?

GRIGSBY BATES: A lot of safely married gay couples in California are troubled by the same thing. A membrane of legality now separates them from friends and associates who wish to marry but can't. Katherine Cortez-Adams puzzles at the court's ruling.

Ms. CORTEZ-ADAMS: It's a strange decision. To me, it strikes me as essentially as schizophrenic as the state was when it voted Obama in as president and Prop 8 in at the same time.

GRIGSBY BATES: But for Prop 8 supporters, yesterday's ruling makes perfect sense. Mat Staver is founder of Liberty Council and dean of Liberty University's School of Law.

Mr. MAT STAVER (Liberty Council): This is a huge decision, where the people of California went to the polls and overturned the 2008 Supreme Court decision of that state and they reaffirmed the definition of marriage between one man and one woman.

GRIGSBY BATES: Staver says in the ideal world, marriages like the Cortez-Adamses would be invalidated, but he can live with the court deciding not to go that route.

Mr. STAVER: That in the scheme of things is a very small aspect of the overall decision. And the overall decision is upholding Proposition 8, that reaffirms marriage as one man and one woman.

GRIGSBY BATES: There will be pushback on both sides. Robin Tyler, one of the original plaintiffs that filed a challenge to Prop 8, says allowing the initiative to stand sends a dispiriting message to same-sex couples.

Ms. ROBIN TYLER: The California Supreme Court put us in the constitution and now they have taken us out, saying equality doesn't have to mean equal in everything.

GRIGSBY BATES: Mathew Staver says Proposition 8 will continue to be challenged.

Mr. STAVER: The battle in California is certainly not over. It's a great victory for traditional marriage, but we also know that we have to continually be vigilant to make sure that this doesn't get reversed in 2010 or 2012 and into the future.

GRIGSBY BATES: Analysts on both sides agree that yesterday's ruling is just the latest mark in a long and expensive battle.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

GREENE: After that court decision yesterday, gay couples in California received an invitation - from Iowa. The Hawkeye State wasn't always known as a haven for gay Americans.

INSKEEP: But the Iowa Supreme Court last month ruled that same-sex couples can marry there. So liberal bloggers in Iowa are throwing out the welcome mat.

GREENE: One blogger on the Iowa Web site, Bleeding Heartland, wrote: Moving halfway across the country clearly won't be an option for everyone, but Iowa has a low cost of living and a good quality of life.

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