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Calif. Supreme Court Weighs Gay Marriages

April 15, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The California Supreme Court indicated Wednesday it’s mulling how to treat the 4,000 couples who were wed before last month’s halt to the same-sex marriage spree in San Francisco.

The justices asked for a briefing for the first time on whether they should invalidate the same-sex marriages if they rule that Mayor Gavin Newsom did not have the authority to issue the marriage licenses.

The justices, in a brief order, asked Newsom, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and a conservative group opposed to gay marriage for their views.

The court would have to decide if the 4,000 marriages remain valid, if they would automatically be voided, or if they could be voided at some later time.

Lockyer has already told the court in briefs that the marriages are invalid and that those who married should get their $82 fees refunded.

Robert Tyler, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is opposing Newsom in the litigation, said the high court should nullify the marriages.

``I’ve said from day one that these certificates are not worth the paper that they are written on,″ Tyler said.

The court has already said it would not immediately decide whether the California Constitution permits same-sex marriage, as Newsom and others claim. The justices said last month they might decide that issue if a legal challenge works its way to them in a process that could take years.

Newsom and same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses sued in the lower courts here last month alleging the state constitution allows same-sex marriages. Hearings on those challenges are pending.

Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City attorney, said the justices should not rule on the validity of the marriages until a decision is reached on whether gay marriage is constitutional.

Update hourly