California high court set to rule on same-sex marriage case
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A ruling on whether California should legalize same-sex marriage is expected Thursday from the state's supreme court.
California's supreme court is expected to rule Thursday on whether to legalize gay marriage.
The decision will be announced about 1 p.m. ET, according to the court's Web site.
Several gay and lesbian couples, along with the city of San Francisco and gay rights groups, had sued to overturn state laws allowing only marriages between a man and a woman.
If the state justices rule in favor of the plaintiffs, California would become the second state to allow same-sex couples to legally wed. Massachusetts adopted the practice in 2004, and gay couples don't need to be state residents to wed there.
Five other jurisdictions around the world have legalized same-sex marriage: Belgium, the Netherlands and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
San Francisco officials in 2004 allowed gay couples in the city to wed, prompting a flood of applicants crowding the city hall clerk's office. The first couple to wed then was 80-year-old Phyllis Lyon and 83-year-old Dorothy Martin, lovers for 50 years.
"We have a right just like anyone else to get married to the person we want to get married to," Lyon said at the time.
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One issue before the justices is whether San Francisco's laws carried legal weight when the rest of the state banned gay marriages. Gay rights advocates argued the state was violating their civil rights by limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. The state law in question is the Defense of Marriage Act, Proposition 22.
Oral arguments in the case in March lasted more than three hours, a sign of the political and legal issues at stake. Six separate cases were consolidated.
Groups saying they were promoting a pro-family agenda had vowed to fight a statewide law on same-sex marriage.
"The government should promote and encourage strong families," said Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund. "The voters realize that defining marriage as one man and one woman is important because the government should not, by design, deny a child both a mother and father."
Regardless of the ruling, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely. The justices have never addressed the question of same-sex marriage