Calif. Justices Hear Arguments in Gay Marriage Case

SAN FRANCISCO – California Supreme Court justices heard arguments Thursday on lawsuits seeking to overturn the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex nuptials as thousands demonstrated outside the courthouse.

Gay rights advocates are urging the court to overturn Proposition 8 on the grounds it was put before voters improperly, or at least prematurely.

The measure's sponsors argue the ballot initiative was approved correctly and it would be a miscarriage of justice for the court to overturn the results of a fair election.

The ballot initiative, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in November, changed the California Constitution to trump last year's 4-3 Supreme Court decision that held that denying same-sex couples the right to wed was an unconstitutional civil rights violation.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on three points: is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution; does it violate the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution; and if it's not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

Minutes into the proceedings, the justices peppered lawyer Shannon Minter, arguing for gay rights advocates, with tough questions over how the 14 words of Proposition 8 represent a revision of the state's constitution.

Outside, gay marriage rights supporters and opponents held signs lobbying the justices to take their side.

Dana Tibbits, who drove 400 miles from her home in Ventura County to join the crowd of Proposition 8 supporters, said she there for the "approximately 7 million voters whose voices need to be heard."

"I'm concerned about the justices, the weight of our vote and the weight of our decision," Tibbits said.

On the other side, Ronald Cruz, 31, a law student at UC Berkeley, said he wanted the measure overturned.

"The rallies and marches make it clear we are not taking second class treatment anymore and that is what drives court decisions on civil rights," he said.

On Wednesday night, several thousand people marched from San Francisco's Castro District to City Hall to demonstrate public support for invalidating Proposition 8.

The Supreme Court's seven justices have 90 days after the oral arguments in which to issue a ruling.

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