California’s Supreme court has invalidated nearly 4,000 marriage licenses issued to gay couples this year in San Francisco, unanimously ruling that city officials who granted the licenses to gay couples from around the country in February and March, had misinterpreted state laws.
Though the ruling only pertains to California, it has been seen as a setback for same-sex marriage advocates, who had hoped the marriages would stand as they fought the larger question of the constitutionality of opposite-sex exclusivity in the institution of marriage.
For those involved in protecting the traditional institution of marriage, it has been seen as a step forward. "It bodes well for any of us trying to protect the institution of marriage," said Sadie Fields, who chairs the Christian Coalition of Georgia.
The court, however, did not resolve whether the California Constitution permits same-sex marriages, and gay-rights advocates have filed a separate suit seeking a ruling on that question.
"Should the current California statutes limiting marriage to a man and a woman ultimately be repealed or be held unconstitutional, the affected couples then would be free to obtain lawfully authorized marriage licenses," the court noted.
The right of same-sex couples to have their relationships legally recognized is expected to become a central social issue of the presidential campaign, even though neither the President, nor the Democratic candidate John Kerry or his running mate John Edwards, support same-sex marriage.