CA High Court Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriages

August 12, 2004 ( - The California Supreme Court voided approximately 4,000 same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco earlier this year, finding the mayor overstepped his legal authority.

>In a unanimous decision, the state high court found the San Francisco mayor violated the law when it issued the certificates, since both legislation and a voter-approved measure defined marriage as a union between a man and woman.   Separately, the court voted 5-2 to nullify the marriages performed in February and March, when the court halted the weddings, according to an Associated Press report.

With the decision, the court sided with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who argued Mayor Gavin Newsom’s actions would fuel legal anarchy and sanction local officials to legislate state law from city halls.   Newsom contended   the ability of same-sex couples to marry was a “fundamental right” that compelled him to act. At the time of the weddings, Newsom authorized the marriages by citing the California Constitution’s ban against discrimination, and claimed he was duty-bound to follow this higher authority rather than state laws banning gay marriage.

The court’s ruling was fairly narrow, however, as it did not resolve whether the California Constitution would permit a same-sex marriage, ruling.   Rather the case focused on whether local officials could bypass state judicial and legislative branches.

In the ruling, Chief Justice Ronald George said the case does not resolve “the substantive legal rights of same sex couples. In actuality, the legal issue before us implicates the interest of all individuals in ensuring that public officials execute their official duties in a manner that respects the limits of the authorities granted to them as officeholders.”