November 7, 2008 in Nation/World

California in legal turmoil over gay marriage

Gay-rights activists challenging new ban
By PAUL ELIAS Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Patrick Ghougassian, left, and Win Croft protest in front of the Mormon Church in Los Angeles on Thursday. Gay rights activists have filed a legal challenge to California’s new ban on gay marriage.
(Full-size photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Thursday over California’s new ban on gay marriage, amid deepening political turmoil and legal confusion over who should have the right to wed.

Legal experts said it is unclear whether an attempt by gay-rights activists to overturn the prohibition has any chance of success, and whether the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California over the past four months are in any danger.

California voters Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment disallowing gay marriage. The measure, which won 52 percent approval, overrides a California Supreme Court ruling last May that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.

On Thursday, about 1,000 gay-marriage supporters demonstrated outside a Mormon temple in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. Sign-waving demonstrators spilled onto Santa Monica Boulevard, bringing afternoon traffic to a halt. The temple was targeted because the Mormon Church strongly supported the ban on gay marriage.

“I’m disappointed in the Californians who voted for this,” said F. Damion Barela, 43, a Studio City resident who married his husband nearly five months ago. He noted that nearly 70 percent of black voters and a slight majority of Hispanic voters voted for the ban.

“To them I say, ‘Shame on you because you should know what this feels like,’ ” he said.

Some spectators cheered from apartment balconies; one person threw eggs at the marchers. Two people were arrested after a confrontation between the crowd and an occupant of a pickup truck that showed a banner supporting the amendment.

On Wednesday night, police in Los Angeles arrested seven people as more than 1,000 protesters blocked traffic in West Hollywood. One man was wrestled to the ground by police after he jumped up and down on the roof of a squad car. Another man was clubbed by police. Hundreds of protesters also gathered on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall, some holding candles and carrying signs that read, “We all deserve the freedom to marry.”

Gay-marriage proponents filed three court challenges Wednesday against the new ban. The lawsuits raise a rare legal argument: that the ballot measure was actually a dramatic revision of the California Constitution rather than a simple amendment. A constitutional revision must first pass the Legislature before going to the voters.

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