California's highest court struck down the will of the people of California to ban same-sex marriage, Thursday.
The state's supreme court justices ruled 4-3 against a popular marriage act passed by voters in 2000. California voters overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act, or Proposition 22, by more than 61 percent.
But the court's latest ruling overturns that voter-approved ban on same-sex unions, saying it was unconstitutional.
"It's terrible. I don't know what to say," said Debbie Cram, one of the more than 4.5 million Californians who voted for the ban. "I'm really upset that the court is overturning what the people voted on."
"I don't believe this is a discrimination issue. " California resident Marcus Cram said. "This is not a discrimination issue, it's a morality issue."
"The court of California is trying to legislate the morality of Californians who already voted against gay marriage," he added. "The people of California are wanting to go in a different direction, and that is clear from our voting procedure."
Gay advocate groups are claiming the ruling is a major victory for equal rights, despite the fact that less than one-third of Californian voters support the idea of same-sex marriage.
Keeping Up the Fight
More challenges to the court's decision are in the works.
Marriage defense groups are working on a ballot measure for constitutional marriage amendment, which would prevent judges from overturning voter will. The initiative is hoped to be put to a vote this fall.
Currently, more than 1.1 million signatures have been collected for the measure.
"Thanks to the more than 1 million Californians who signed petitions, these out-of-touch California judges will not have the last word on marriage," said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage California. "California voters will."
"A state marriage amendment is the only way to put Prop 22 safely from the reach of activist judges who cannot tell the difference between marriage and bigotry," Brown said. "We call on gay marriage advocates to halt the divisive and intolerant rhetoric which cruelly and falsely labels millions of Californians as 'hate mongers' because we support marriage as the union of husband and wife."
Lawyers with the Alliance Defense Fund are also planning to ask for a stay of the court's decision until after the fall election, said Glen Lavey, senior counsel for the group.
California's Secretary of State is expected to rule by the end of June whether they have enough signatures to put the amendment on the ballot.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that he "will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
The high court ruling makes the Golden State the second state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to legally wed. Massachusetts adopted the practice in 2004.
When San Francisco officials in 2004 allowed gay couples in the city to marry, the ADF filed suit against the city for violating the Defense of Marriage act.
"The government should promote and encourage strong families," Lavy said. "The voters realize that defining marriage as one man and one woman is important because the government should not, by design, deny a child both a mother and father."
Gay rights advocates, however, argued the state was violating their civil rights by limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
As a result, the city of San Francisco, along with several gay and lesbian couples and gay rights groups, counter-sued to overturn state laws allowing only marriages between a man and a woman.
Setting a Precedent
"What happens in California, either way, will have a huge impact around the nation. It will set the tone," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California.
Regardless of the ruling, it appears likely that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will occur. The nation's highest justices have never addressed the question of same-sex marriage.
Sources: The Associated Press, CNN, Alliance Defense Fund, National Organization for Marriage California