SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – In a landmark ruling, a sharply divided California Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage, making California the second state after Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriages.
In the 71-page ruling, the justices voted 4-3 to strike down state laws banning same-sex marriages. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald George, first established that the right to form a family relationship is a basic civil right guaranteed “to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”
It next had to determine whether state laws allowing same-sex “domestic partnerships” afford gay couples all the constitutionally protected rights of marriage, only under a different name – a position taken by the state attorney general.
But the state high court concluded that, even when the state grants ostensibly equal benefits to non-marriage unions, domestic partnerships and marriage are not inherently equal. The court mentioned the “intangible symbolic differences” and a concern that any parallel institutions would be viewed as “second-class citizenship” to marriage.
The majority also noted that domestic partnerships are not as widely accepted as marriages, a reality that will likely “pose significant difficulties and complications for same-sex couples.”
Justices Kennard, Werdegar and Moreno joined the chief justice’s opinion, while Justices Baxter, Chin and Corrigan partially dissented.