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Friday, October 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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California court upholds gay-marriage ban

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A state appeals court upheld California's ban on gay marriage Thursday, a critical defeat for a movement hungry for a win after similar losses in two other states.

In reversing the March 2005 ruling of a San Francisco trial judge, the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the state's attorney general, who argued it is up to the Legislature, not the courts, to change the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

"The time may come when California chooses to expand the definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions. That change must come from democratic processes, however, not by judicial fiat," the court said in a 2-1 decision.

The justices, in their 128-page opinion, noted that California's ban on same-sex marriage does not discriminate against gays and lesbians because of the state's strong domestic-partner law, which gives registered couples most of the same rights as married spouses in California.

The ruling does not guarantee, however, that same-sex couples will ultimately not be able to get married in California. Gay-marriage advocates said beforehand that they would appeal to the California Supreme Court if the intermediate court did not decide in their favor.

"Though we are disappointed, we always knew this issue was going to be decided by the California Supreme Court," said Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality USA.

Opponents of gay marriage praised the decision.

"This is a victory for the right of the people of California to make fundamental policy decisions through democratic processes," said Monte Stewart, President of the Marriage Law Foundation, a Utah-based group that opposes same-sex marriage.

"It is also a victory for society's most consequential social institution, and that is marriage."

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage after gay and lesbian couples in that state successfully sued for the right to wed.

In the aftermath of that change, 19 states passed constitutional amendments barring gay marriage. Twenty-six other states have statues limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Connecticut and Vermont allow civil unions.

Advocates of same-sex unions had seen California as one of their best chances to expand their marriage rights after recent high-court rulings in New York and Washington state upheld bans in those states.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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