SAN FRANCISCO - California’s Supreme Court Tuesday upheld a voter-backed ban on gay marriages in America’s largest state, disappointing gay activists who had argued that the ban was unconstitutional because it discriminated against people on the grounds of their sexual preference.
The court’s 6-1 ruling means that same sex couples will not be allowed to marry in California at least until the ban is overturned at the ballot box.
But in a unanimous decision the court also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect can stay wed.
The majority ruling written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, said that the November voter initiative banning gay marriage was neither an illegal constitutional revision nor unconstitutional because it took away an inalienable right, as gay advocates and California Attorney General Jerry Brown had argued.
But the ruling stressed that gay couples still had full rights to civil unions and that the voters were entitled to restrict the formality of the term marriage.
The decision was met with howls of protests by thousands of gay activists who gathered outside the San Francisco courthouse and who proceeded to lock arms and block traffic in the surrounding streets.
Sharon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said that the decision would inevitably lead to a new voter initiative.
“Without the right to the word ‘marriage’, same-sex couples would find our outsider status enshrined in our Constitution,” she said.