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California Supreme Court refuses to stop gay weddings

A same-sex couple weds at City Hall in San Francisco, June 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A same-sex couple weds at City Hall in San Francisco, June 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The California Supreme Court on Monday rejected the latest bid to stop gay weddings in the state as same-sex marriage opponents tried to salvage a voter-approved ban on the nuptials.

In 2008 California voters passed the gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8, but a San Francisco federal judge struck down the initiative as unconstitutional and last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that supporters of the ban did not have the legal right to appeal.

In the aftermath of that highly anticipated opinion, Prop 8 supporters turned to the California Supreme Court last week and asked it to order an immediate halt on gay weddings in the state, until the state high court could rule on whether the original federal order applied across California.

The California Supreme Court rejected that request, but further briefs on the legal issues are due in the coming weeks.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement that her office "will continue to fight this effort to deny same-sex couples their constitutionally-protected civil rights."

Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, a federal appeals court allowed gay marriages to resume in California and a wave of ceremonies began immediately.

Austin Nimocks, an attorney representing the pro-Prop 8 group Protectmarriage.com, said in a statement that it hopes the California Supreme Court will ultimately side with it.

"Although we would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to issue a stay so that the state's marriage amendment would be respected sooner rather than later," Nimocks said, "the proponents of Proposition 8 will continue to urge the court to uphold the rule of law."

Same-sex marriage is allowed in 13 states and Washington D.C., and gay rights advocates believe momentum is on their side to extend it further.

In court papers filed last week, Protectmarriage.com argued that the California federal judge's ruling did not apply statewide. It asked the California Supreme Court to immediately tell county clerks that Prop. 8 remained in effect and order them to stop issuing wedding licenses while the issue is litigated.

The State of California opposed the move and on Monday the California Supreme Court rejected the request in a one sentence order.

The case in the California Supreme Court is Dennis Hollingsworth vs. Patrick O'Connell et al., S211990.

(Reporting By Dan Levine; Editing by Sandra Maler and Christopher Wilson)

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