Calif. votes to ban same-sex marriage

Calif. votes to ban same-sex marriage
Organizers, from left, Tiffany Delepine, Meg Waters, Lowell Brown, and Sonja Edding Brown,react to precinct reports at the California Proposition 8 election night party in Newport Beach, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - California voters have adopted a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, overturning the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.

The passage of Proposition 8 in Tuesday's election represents a crushing political defeat for gay rights activists, who had hoped public opinion on the contentious issue had shifted enough since the state overwhelmingly passed an earlier gay marriage ban in 2000 to help them defeat the measure.

"We pick ourselves up and trudge on," Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said early Wednesday when it appeared the measure was headed for passage. "There has been enormous movement in favor of full equality in eight short years. That is the direction this is heading, and if it's not today or it's not tomorrow, it will be soon."

With almost all precincts reporting, election returns showed the measure winning with 52 percent. With election officials and others estimating 2 million to 3 million provisional and absentee ballots remained to be tallied, leaders of the No on 8 campaign said they were not ready to concede.

"Because Prop 8 involves the sensitive matter of individual rights, we believe it is important to wait until we receive further information about the outcome," Geoff Kors, director of Equality California said in a statement Wednesday.

But based on trends and the locations of the votes still outstanding, the margin of support in favor of the initiative appeared secure. The Yes on 8 campaign declared victory just after midnight.

"People believe in the institution of marriage," Frank Schubert, co-manager of the Yes on 8 campaign said. "It's one institution that crosses ethnic divides, that crosses partisan divides. ... People have stood up because they care about marriage and they care a great deal."

Opponents of the gay marriage ban said Wednesday that one legal challenge was filed and others were being prepared.

By changing the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman, Proposition 8 overturns the California Supreme Court decision that overturned the 2000 ban and legalized same-sex marriage in the state in mid-June. Since then, an estimated 18,000 gay and lesbian couples, many of them from other states, have been married.

The measure's passage represents a personal loss for couples who still hoped to wed, and casts a shadow of uncertainty on the legal unions of those who already have. Because the initiative holds that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in the state, legal experts have said it will have to be resolved in court whether existing gay marriages would be nullified.

Amid uncertainty over when the amendment takes effect, gay and lesbian couples continued seeking marriage licenses throughout the state Wednesday. They were successful in some jurisdictions and not others where county clerks wanted direction before sanctioning any more same-sex unions.

Jake Rowe, 27, and James Eslick, 29, were in the midst of getting married at Sacramento City Hall Wednesday morning when someone from the clerk's office stopped the wedding. The two men had planned to get married next year because "We held in hope that 8 would not pass," Rowe said.

"I'm thoroughly surprised. I thought Californians had come to the point where they realized discrimination wasn't right," he said.

Kate Folmar, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said initiatives typically take effect the day after an election, although the results from Tuesday's races will not be certified until Dec. 13.

Couples who had optimistically made appointments to get hitched at San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday were asked to wait until the clerk's office received guidance from state officials, said county clerk Karen Hong Lee.

"I know what the Constitution says, but with the fact there are some votes still uncounted, we want to make absolutely sure as administrators we are doing our jobs properly," Hong said.

But in Los Angeles, couples still were able to wed — for now.

Grace Chavez, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Norwalk, said weddings for gay couples were being performed in first floor chapel. She could not, however, say if there was any last-minute rush of couples trying to marry before the measure is enforced.

Attorney General Jerry Brown has said he thinks the ban would not to couples who tied the knot between mid-June and election day. As for who manage to marry Wednesday, Dana Simas, a spokeswoman for Brown, said "that is an issue that we have not yet decided."

Despite intense disappointment, some newlyweds elected to look on the positive side, taking comfort that millions of Californians had voted to validate their relationships.

"I'm really OK," said Diana Correia, of Berkeley, who married her partner of 18 years, Cynthia Correia, on Sunday in front of the couple's two children and 80 relatives and friends. "I hope the marriage holds, but we are already married in our hearts, so nobody can take that away."