California Passes Gay Marriage Ban, Legal Challenges to Come

Gay marriage, abortion, among controversial issues voters decided Tuesday.

November 4, 2008, 11:28 PM

Nov. 5, 2008 — -- The voters have spoken, not only electing a new president, but rejecting abortion restrictions in some states that could have forced the Supreme Court to re-examine Roe vs. Wade, and banning a law allowing gay marriage in California.

On Wednesday, gay marriage advocates filed a legal challenge in California's state Supreme Court to the initiative known as Proposition 8.

Prop 8 will overturn the state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that legalized gay marriage. The legal challenge brought today was filed on behalf of an advocacy group called Equality California and six same-sex couples who did not marry before Tuesday's election, but would like to marry now.

Whether named a ballot measure, ballot initiative, proposition or referendum, the collective legislation put state or local policy decisions in the hands of pencil-wielding or touch-screen-pushing voters. More than 150 social issues made it onto ballots in 35 states this Election Day.

Gay marriage is the big issue in California. With passage of Proposition 8, California amends its constitution to specify that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized.

Earlier this year the state's Supreme Court overturned a 2000 gay marriage initiative. That decision allowed thousands of gays and lesbians to be legally married in that state; gay couples across the state decided not to take their chances, choosing to marry before voters took up the measure.

Other states that had gay marriage on the ballot included Arizona and Florida. Voters in both states passed measures to amend their constitutions to specify that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage.

The Florida measure needed to reach 60 percent to pass; voters pushed it just past the threshold to 62 percent, according to preliminary vote totals on the Florida Secretary of State's Web site.

Gay marriage also loomed as an issue in Connecticut, which just saw its civil union law overturned earlier this month, paving the way for same-sex marriages to begin in that state before the end of the year.

Connecticut voters weighed a ballot initiative that could have seated a constitutional convention, a necessary step to make any change to the state's constitution, but local media reported that the measure failed.

In Arkansas, residents approved a measure aimed at preventing gay couples from adopting children. The measure, Proposed Initiative Act 1, goes further than just barring same-sex couples from adopting; it bars any individual cohabiting outside of a valid marriage from adopting or providing foster care to minors.

One state attempted to put the abortion issue on the Supreme Court's agenda, a move that could have caused the justices to revisit the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, but voters rejected the measure, according to ABC News projections.

South Dakota's Initiative Measure 11 would have prohibited all abortions, except in cases where the procedure would prevent the death or a serious health risk to the mother, or in cases of rape or incest.

In 2006, voters in the state rejected a similar measure that did not include provisions for victims of rape or incest, or for the health of the mother. This year's attempt spelled out exceptions to address those issues, but voters still shot down the measure.

The initiative said that for the health of the mother, a physician would have needed to make the determination that an abortion is medically necessary because of "serious risk of a substantial and irreversible impairment of the functioning of a major bodily organ or system" of the woman.

In cases of rape or incest, the mother would have needed to identify the violator and take a DNA test to prove it is his child.

Abortion was also on the ballot in California and Colorado. In Colorado, voters rejected Amendment 48, which sought to define the term "person" to include a human egg at the moment of fertilization.

Votes were still being counted early today on California's Proposition 4, which would require parental notification for abortions for minors.

Affirmative action faced challenges in Colorado and Nebraska. Voters in those states were asked whether their governments should eliminate policies that give hiring preferences based on race or gender; Nebraska passed the measure. Votes were still being counted in Colorado.

The measures in both states would permit exceptions for existing court orders, certain federal programs and other legally binding agreements.

Other measures appearing on ballots this Election Day ranged from medical marijuana use to stem cell research. Here are some of the other issues voters decided:

The measure will not provide funding for the research.

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