Calif. High Court Agrees to Hear Prop. 8 Challenges

4 more counties join legal fight

California's highest court has agreed to hear legal challenges to a new ban on gay marriage, but is refusing to allow gay couples to resume marrying until it rules.

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted three lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8, which voters approved Nov. 4. The amendment passed this month with 52 percent of the vote. The court did not elaborate on its decision.

All three cases claim the ban abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group. They argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change.

The groups behind the cases claim the ballot measure is unconstitutional.

Four Bay Area counties are the latest to join the legal fight to try to stop state Proposition 8. The Board of Supervisors for Alameda, Marin, San Mateo and Santa  Cruz counties have approved joining the lawsuit filed in the California Supreme Court by the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles and Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties.

The lawsuit is one of six cases filed directly in the state high court in San Francisco to challenge the Proposition 8. All six lawsuits  contend the measure is a constitutional revision, not an amendment, because  it strips a minority group of a fundamental right.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Adrienne Tissier said, "This is a civil rights matter."

The other five lawsuits were filed by two sets of same-sex couples, five civil rights organizations, two women's rights groups and the California Council of Churches.

The cases are on a list for discussion at the justices' weekly conference Wednesday, but Holton noted that the listing doesn't necessarily mean the court will take action Wednesday rather than a later date.

The panel has the options of either rejecting the cases without a hearing or granting review, hearing arguments and issuing a written ruling at a later date.

Proposition 8, which states that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," overturns a decision in which  the court said by a 4-3 vote in May that the constitution's equal protection  guarantee provides a right to same-sex marriage.

The initiative was enacted as a constitutional amendment by an approximately 52 percent majority of voters.

A constitutional revision would require approval of two-thirds each house of the Legislature as well as a majority of state voters.

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