The Supreme Court of California has ruled 4-3 that state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples are unconstitutional.
The ruling means the state would join Massachusetts in allowing same-sex couples to marry unless a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution is approved by voters in November.
In 2004, the city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Soon after, the state Supreme Court ruled that the city had violated the law in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple couples in the absence of a judicial determination that the California statutes limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman are unconstitutional.
In recent years, California has enacted legislation under which a same-sex couple may enter into a legal relationship that gives the couple virtually all of the same substantive legal benefits, privileges, and obligations that state law gives to married couples. However, the term to denote the official relationship for same-sex couples (domestic partnerships) was different from that of same-sex couples (marriages).
The question before the court was whether the failure to designate the official relationship of same-sex couples as marriage violates the California Constitution. The court ruled that it did, saying that the state must use the same term to denote state-sanctioned relationships for same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples..