Voters Approve Gay Marriage Ban, Legal Opposition Begins

One of the most watched state proposition in the country is now in the books.

Even as California voters showed their opposition to gay marriage, civil liberties groups are mounting a challenge to Proposition 8.

Three civil liberties groups announced they filed a lawsuit in the California Supreme Court in San Francisco Wednesday morning asking the panel to strike down Proposition 8 if it passes.

California voters approved the constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, overturning the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.

The passage of Proposition 8 represents a crushing political defeat for gay rights activists, who had hoped public opinion on the contentious issue had shifted enough to help them defeat the measure.

It also represents a personal loss for the thousands of couples from California and others states who got married in the brief window when they could. Legal experts have said it will have to be resolved in court whether their unions still are valid

Proposition 8 is widely seen as the most controversial of the 153 ballot measures at stake nationwide.

Thousands of people crowded into the Castro District Tuesday night and well into Wednesday morning in hopes of getting the news that their side had pulled off a last-minute upset, but that did not happen. By sunrise the streets were clear.

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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he plans to challenge the validity of the ballot measure.  Spokesman Matt Dorsey said Herrera will file the legal challenge in the California Supreme Court.  

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has called a 1:30 p.m. news conference to discuss the exact steps the city will take next.

The first lesbian couple to be married in Los Angeles County after the Supreme Court threw out the gay marriage ban also plans to announce a lawsuit against Proposition 8. Attorney Gloria Allred says that lawsuit will argue that the measure is unconstitutional.

Proposition 8 overturns the California Supreme Court decision that overturned the 2000 ban and legalized same-sex marriage in the state in mid-June. Since then, an estimated 18,000 gay and lesbian couples, many of them from other states, have been married.

The measure's passage represents a personal loss for couples who still hoped to wed, and casts a shadow of uncertainty on the legal unions of those who already have. Because the initiative holds that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in the state, legal experts have said it will have to be resolved in court whether existing gay marriages would be nullified.

With 98.3 percent of precincts reporting, approval of Proposition 8 was leading by more than 400,000 votes or 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent, according to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office.

A spokeswoman for the office said most absentee and provisional ballots had not been counted and final election results would not be certified until Dec. 13.

The challenge to the measure was filed by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal on behalf of Equality California and six same-sex couples who would like to marry.

The groups said the petition contends the proposition is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the state constitution's core commitment to equality.

The state Supreme Court ruled by a 4-3 vote in May that the California constitution provides a right to same-sex marriage.

California's black and Latino voters, who turned out in droves for Barack Obama, are being credited for helping pass the ban.

Seven in 10 black voters backed Prop. 8, according to exit polls for The Associated Press

More than half of Latino voters supported Proposition 8, while whites were split.

Religious groups led the tightly organized campaign for the measure, and religious voters were decisive in getting it passed. Of the seven in 10 voters who described themselves as Christian, two-thirds backed the initiative.

Married voters and voters with children strongly supported Proposition 8. Unmarried voters were heavily opposed.

A number of other measures among the 12 ballot initiatives were also too close to determine.

Proposition 4, another divisive social issue, would require doctors to notify parents or guardians when minors seek an abortion. It appeared to be headed for defeat. California voters defeated similar initiatives twice before -- in 2005 and 2006.

Other initiatives asked voters to decide questions about alternative energy, crime, agriculture conditions, public transportation and adjusted political districts.

Two alternative energy initiatives that were rejected by environmental groups were defeated.

Proposition 7, which would have required California utilities to generate half their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, was defeated with 66 percent of voters rejecting the measure and half the ballots tallied. Another energy measure, Proposition 10, would have given Californians who buy alternative-fuel vehicles up to $50,000 in rebates through a $5 billion bond measure — but it also lost.

With a 51 percent lead, voters appeared to be narrowly supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's effort to remove the Legislature's power to draw state Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization districts. Proposition 11 would give that authority to a 14-member, bipartisan commission.

Proposition 2, the Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act, passed. With nearly three quarters of the votes tallied, 62 percent of voters supported the measure.

The measure drew some high-profile backers, including Ellen DeGeneres and spouse Portia de Rossi. The initiative sought to outlaw cramped cages for egg-laying chickens, but opponents said it would drive egg producers out of state if approved.

Two initiatives vowed to get tough on criminals while another sought to expand drug treatment programs.

Proposition 5 would have prevented drug offenders from being sent back to prison for parole violations unless they commit a new felony or are considered high risk, while Proposition 6 called for a greater crackdown on gang crime. Both measures failed.

Proposition 9, an initiative that will write crime victims' rights into the state constitution, passed.

Several other initiatives called for billions in bond money. Proposition 1A called for raising nearly $10 billion for building the first phase of a statewide high-speed rail system, while Proposition 3 sought to tap the state's budget for $980 million to fix and equip children's hospitals. With three quarters of the precincts counted, both had a narrow lead.

Proposition 12, which would continue a state-run home loan program for veterans, passed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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