The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage today, ratifying a decision made by voters last year at a time when several state governments have moved in an opposite direction. The decision, however, preserves the 18,000 marriages performed between the court’s decision last May that same-sex marriage was lawful and the passage by voters in November of Proposition 8, which banned it.
Civil unions, which provide the legal trappings of marriage in all but name, will continue to be available prospectively in California.
The decision was not unexpected. The challenges had relied upon a distinction California's constitution makes between different procedures for amending the state constitution, which the California Supreme Court found inapplicable, and a variation of the Colorado Amendment 2 argument which argued that state constitutional amendments aimed at taking away fundamental rights should be treated differently, which the California Supreme Court rejected on the grounds that the distinctions were symbolic rather than substantive. Because the California Supreme Court holds that Prop 8 is not retroactive, there will still be 18,000 gay married couples in California, despite the proposition.