Schwarzenegger backs gay marriage

August 7th, 2010 - 8:37 am ICT by IANS  

Arnold Schwarzenegger San Francisco, Aug 7 (DPA) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday called on a judge to immediately authorise gay marriage in California.
The Republican governor and former movie star made the call in a court filing on the fate of a court order that has delayed implementation of a ruling reversing the ban on gay marriage.

Lifting the stay would permit gay couples to marry immediately in California, precisely what Schwarzenegger argued for.

“The administration believes the public interest is best served by permitting the court’s judgement to go into effect, thereby restoring the right of same-sex couples to marry in California,” lawyers for Schwarzenegger said in the legal filing.

“Doing so is consistent with California’s long history of treating all people and their relationships with equal dignity and respect.”

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a candidate for governor, argued for immediate lifting of the stay.

“Proposition 8 is unconstitutional,” said Brown, referring to the voter-approved initiative struck down by the court. “The public interest weighs against its continued enforcement.”

Opponents of gay marriage are hoping that presiding Judge Vaughn Walker extends the stay pending their appeal on his ruling Wednesday that a ban on same-sex marriages in California is unconstitutional.

They filed a notice of appeal with the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Thursday. Walker’s ruling overturned a 2009 ruling by the California Supreme Court that upheld a state-wide ballot proposition from 2008 that reserved marriage for two people of the opposite sex.

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license,” Walker wrote in a 136-page ruling.

He said the ballot measure “prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis”.

The constitutional right to marry, Walker said, “protects an individual’s choice of marital partner regardless of gender”. He wrote that domestic partnerships in California, available to same-sex couples, are a “substitute and inferior institution” lacking the social meaning and cultural status of marriage.

The ruling will make California only the sixth state in the US to permit gay marriage. The others are Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Maine and Vermont. But it will have an even bigger effect on the approximately 30 of the 50 US states that have clauses in their constitutions that marriage is solely a matter between a man and a woman.

The judge’s decision handed supporters of gay rights a major victory. But both sides expect the case to reach the US Supreme Court.

Thursday’s notice of appeal is the first step in that process.

The case will be assigned to a three-judge appellate panel, and legal experts say that opponents of gay marriage stand a far better chance if the case reaches the US Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority.

The gay marriage issue has been unsettled for years in California, where the top California state court had given the green light to same sex marriage in May 2008, only to have 52 percent of the voters in November 2008 ban the practice through a referendum.

The ban was upheld in May 2009 by the California Supreme Court, which did leave in place the 18,000 same-sex marriage licences issued from May-November 2008.

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