The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which defines marriage in the California constitution to exclude same-sex couples. It also ruled that the thousands of same-sex couples who married before Prop 8 passed are still legally married in California.
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In May 2008, California's Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the equal right to marry under the state constitution. That decision was effectively overruled when Proposition 8 was approved by voters on Nov. 4, 2008 by a 52.3 - 47.7% margin. Approximately 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California between June 17 and November 4, 2008.
The day after the vote, three lawsuits challenging Prop 8 were filed in the California Supreme Court.
On Nov. 19, 2008, the court agreed to hear the cases. The legal issues raised were technical, and focused on the question of whether Proposition 8 is invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California constitution. A "revision" is a substantial change to the constitution that would require action by the legislature before a matter is placed before voters.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is lead counsel for the petitioners seeking to invalidate Proposition 8. NCLR represents Equality California, whose members include many of the same-sex couples married between June and November. NCLR is also working with counsel from Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and several private law firms.
Amicus briefs asking the court to invalidate Proposition 8 were signed by hundreds of civil rights organizations, faith organizations, labor unions, businesses, bar associations, and other groups, including the NAACP, MALDEF, California Council of Churches and the Human Rights Campaign. California's state House and Senate passed resolutions declaring their opposition to Proposition 8.
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