California Gay Marriage Ban Faces Lawsuits

Same-sex marriage proponents gearing up for legal challenges to Propostion 8.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Defenders of same-sex marriage filed three lawsuits Wednesday challenging California voters' passage of a constitutional amendment banning it.

Proposition 8, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, was approved by 52% of 10.2 million votes counted. Three million absentee ballots are uncounted or unreturned.

The "No on 8" campaign did not concede, even though spokeswoman Kate Kandell said the absentee count is "highly unlikely" to change the outcome.

Arizona and Florida passed similar measures.

In California, the amendment came after gay marriage became legal in a state Supreme Court ruling May 15. The court said a ban was discriminatory and violated the state constitution.

Since then, 18,000 gay couples have wed in California, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the "Yes on 8" campaign, said his group does not plan to challenge the legality of those marriages, but he expects them to end up in court. Jenny Pizer, senior counsel with Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, said they would still be valid.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed one suit. A statement by Lambda said "the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution's core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group — lesbian and gay Californians."

The counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Clara filed a joint lawsuit. Civil rights attorney Gloria Allred filed one on behalf of lesbian clients married in Los Angeles.

Pugno called the suits "desperate." He said, "I am amazed at their disrespect for the will of the people."

Pizer said the lawsuits are necessary to protect the rights of minorities. "The point of equal protection is that everybody is supposed to have the same rights, and minorities are protected against a majority that would abuse the minority."

On other top issues on state ballots Tuesday:

• Efforts to limit or ban abortion failed in three states. Californians rejected a measure requiring parental notification for a minor's abortion. South Dakotans rejected a ban on most abortions. Coloradoans defeated a proposal that would have defined "personhood" as starting with fertilization.

• Embryonic stem cell research got a nod in Michigan, which repealed a ban.

• Animal rights were embraced in California. Voters supported a requirement that farms give egg-laying hens, pregnant pigs and calves enough room to turn around, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs.

• Physician-assisted suicide was approved in Washington, making it the second state, after Oregon, to allow terminally ill patients to obtain lethal prescription drugs.

Contributing: Wendy Koch in McLean, Va.