Same-sex couples wed in California

US state solemnises homosexual marriages after court overturns ban.

    Robin Taylor, right, and Diane Olson were among the first couples to be married in California [AFP]
    Some county clerks kept longer hours on Monday to marry specific couples.
     
    "It will be nice to be able to stand there and get married and say 'We won,'" said Robin Tyler, who was one of the plaintiffs in the legal case, and who planned to marry her partner Diane Olson on the steps of the Supreme Court building on Monday.
     
    Election effect
     
    A recent University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study said around 51,000 of the 102,000 same-sex couples living in California are expected to marry over the next three years.
     
    A further 67,500 same-sex couples from outside the state expected to wed here during the same period.
     
    The survey published last month said 52 per cent of Californians supported homosexual marriage while 41 per cent opposed it.
     
    Bill Bradley, a California political analyst, told Al Jazeera that the issue was unlikely to have a big impact on the forthcoming US presidential elections.
     
    Bradley said Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's Republican governor, was likely to campaign against any new moves to ban same-sex marriages.
     
    Both presumptive candidates for the presidency, John McCain and Barack Obama, support civil unions for same-sex couples but stop short of supporting actual marriage.
     
    In the US, also Vermont and Connecticut recognise same-sex civil unions, while Hawaii, Maine and New Jersey allow couples living together the same rights as married couples.
     
    Legal battle
     

    Religious campaigners have targeted
    gay rights activists around the world [EPA]

    Last month's California Supreme Court court ruling came after a seven-year legal battle that erupted in 2000 when the state's voters approved a law that only marriages between men and women could be legally recognised.
     
    However civil rights activists argued that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples was unconstitutional and that the law should be struck down.
     
    In 2005 the San Francisco Superior Court ruled in favour of those opposed to the ban, finding that there was no justification for refusing to allow the marriages.
     
    But the decision was overturned in 2006 by the California Court of Appeal, which ruled in a 2-1 decision that the state's desire to "carry out the expressed wishes of a majority" was sufficient to preserve the existing law.
     
    International laws
     
    Holland was the first country to allow gay marriages in April 2001, followed by Belgium in June 2003, Canada and Spain in July 2005.
     
    South Africa was the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage after it passed the Civil Union Act in 2006.
     
    But many other countries reject any kind of union between homosexuals, usually on religious grounds.
     
    The Australian government passed legislation in 2004 that defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others".
     
    In India, homosexuality is an offence punishable by a life sentence in prison, and same-sex marriages are also prohibited in China and Russia.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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