Calif. Voters OK Prop 8, But Advocates Vow Fight

California voters have approved Proposition 8, a ballot measure that repeals the right of gay couples to marry. But the victory margin is narrow and several gay-rights groups, along with the city of San Francisco, say they will challenge Prop 8 in court.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. California has just become the first state to legalize gay marriage and then repeal it. Voters approved a ballot measure known as Proposition 8. It is a crushing defeat for supporters of gay marriage and the thousands of gay couples who recently got married in California. The ballot measure overturns a five-month-old court ruling that allowed same-sex marriage. And as NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, those marriages now may be challenged in court.

RICHARD GONZALES: As the polls closed last night, more than a thousand opponents of Prop. 8 packed a hotel ballroom in San Francisco knowing that the race would be close. Support for the gay marriage ban jumped out to an early lead as results came in from the more conservative counties in California's rural areas. It was not a good sign for a newly married Jeannie Rizzo.

Ms. JEANNIE RIZZO: We just got married two months ago, and that someone wants - that many people would vote to eliminate that right, is disappointing. Profoundly.

GONZALES: The race narrowed as votes were counted from coastal cities such Los Angeles and San Francisco. And the race was too close to call until today. Now, with virtually all precincts reporting, 52 percent of California voters endorsed an amendment to the state constitution outlawing gay marriage. Sonia Eddings Brown is a spokeswoman for Protect Marriage California, which backed Prop. 8.

Ms. SONIA EDDINGS BROWN (Spokeswoman, Protect Marriage California): We recognize that a lot of passionate people have been invested in this race on both sides. We also feel that it's very important, and obviously, the voters have expressed their voice. And they want traditional marriage to be represented in the laws of California, and voters across the nation said the same thing in Florida and Arizona.

GONZALES: The vote was a bitter pill for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who told a San Francisco television station that passing Prop. 8 was wrong for California.

Mayor GAVIN NEWSOM (Democrat, San Francisco, California): We've changed the constitution, no state has ever done this, to take rights away from people. I believe that we should have defended the constitution by defeating Prop. 8. That's a tough thing to accept, but I accept it.

GONZALES: The measure overturns last June's California State Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Since then, at least 18,000 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot. Today, there's some question whether those marriages will be challenged in court. California Attorney General Jerry Brown says that, in his opinion, the marriages will remain valid, but others disagree. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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