Supreme Court clears path for same-sex marriage in California

The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in California, but avoided directly answering constitutional questions about state marriage laws.

In a 5-4 decision, the court said procedural issues prevented it from reaching a ruling on the merits of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state.

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The justices said supporters of Proposition 8 did not have the legal standing to defend it in the courts. They declined to rule on the law’s merits and vacated a federal appeals court’s decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy led the dissent.

California officials said they would move quickly to allow same-sex couples in the state to marry.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said his administration has directed county clerks throughout the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as a federal appeals court takes the formal steps to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Supreme Court's decision leaves in place a trial court's decision invalidating Proposition 8.

There had been some debate about the practical effects of leaving only that ruling in place, but California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Wednesday that same-sex marriage is legal across the state.

“The Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry means that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to be legally married in all of California’s 58 counties,” Harris said.

This story was updated at 3:15 p.m.