Renew debate over rights of same-sex partners
The California Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry.
For at least awhile, gay and lesbian couples in California will be allowed to marry. Voters in that state may overturn the state Supreme Court's ruling in November, but the decision is reverberating around the country and should renew discussion in Hawaii, where the debate over gay matrimony began. Hawaii should join other states that allow civil unions for same-sex couples.
By a 4-3 vote, California's high court, regarded as moderately conservative with six Republican appointees and one Democrat, ruled yesterday that same-sex couples have "the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship." It ruled that a law enacted by the California legislature in 1977 and a 2000 initiative, both banning gay marriages, violated the state constitution. Massachusetts also recognizes same-sex marriages.
The ruling is to take effect after 30 days. More than a million signatures are attached to a constitutional amendment that would trump the ruling and ban gay marriages in California. It is expected to qualify to be placed on the November ballot.
The decision comes 15 years after Hawaii's Supreme Court triggered a national debate by requiring the state to explain why homosexual marriages should be forbidden. The Legislature enacted a bill in 1997 to prohibit gay marriages and, a year later, Hawaii voters approved a state constitutional amendment that effectively allowed that decision to stand. Sixty-nine percent of voters favored the amendment.
Hawaii is among five states, including California, that allow domestic partnerships or reciprocal benefits, giving gay partners various rights such as family and bereavement leaves, probate rights and hospital visitation. Four states allow civil unions, which extend rights to areas such as taxation and adoption. Bills to allow civil unions in Hawaii were introduced in last year's Legislature but received no consideration.
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