By Selena Simmons-Duffin
On May 15, the California Supreme Court ruled that limiting the status of marriage to heterosexual couples was a violation of the California Constitution.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Robert George wrote, "In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples." The ruling went into effect on June 16.
What it means
All couples can now be married in California, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or residence. Same-sex couples who were wed legally elsewhere are now recognized as married in California. The ruling affects only civil marriage, and has no effect on religious ceremonies.
Domestic partnerships still exist — if two people who had domestic partnership marry, they can retain both statuses for travel to states that recognize domestic partnerships but not marriage.
The ruling has no effect on the federal level, so same-sex couples married in California must file separately for federal taxes, and do not receive federal spousal benefits.
The November ballot
Proposition 8 is an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that would amend the California Constitution to state: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
The initiative was certified for the ballot two months before the Supreme Court's ruling. If it passes, the legal status of same-sex couples married legally after the court ruling would probably be settled in court, although California Attorney General Jerry Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I believe that marriages that have been entered into subsequent to the (May 15) Supreme Court opinion will be recognized by the California Supreme Court."
At The Almanac's press time on Aug. 11, the most recent poll was a July 18 Field Poll, which found that 51 percent of surveyed voters planned to vote against the proposition, while 42 percent said they would vote to approve it.