California Court of Appeal rules that Family Code sections limiting civil marriage to opposite sex couples are not unconstitutional


On October 5, 2006, the Court of Appeal ruled in In re Marriage Cases, that Family Code sections limiting availability to civil marriage to opposite sex couples are not unconstitutional. The Court's decision stressed that the Legislature has passed legislation, specifically, Family Code section 297, et seq., providing substantially all the rights, responsibilities, benefits and protections of marriage to same-sex couples who register as domestic partners.

In addition, the Court concluded that California's historical definition of marriage did not deprive individuals of a  fundamental right or discriminate against a suspect class; therefore, the Court applied rational basis review. That is, the Court analyzed the marriage statutes to determine whether the opposite-sex requirement is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Concluding that great deference should be afforded to the Legislature, the Court stated that the marriage statutes are constitutional. In so concluding, the Court noted that the time may come when California chooses to expand the definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions, but that such change should come from democratic processes, not from the judiciary.

To review the full opinion, click here

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