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The Nation

March 2, 2011

Calif. AG latest to seek resumption of gay unions

SAN FRANSISCO — The state's top attorney has dealt another setback for seekers of gay marriage bans with her request to allow the unions to resume immediately in California, the latest in a string of about-faces siding with same-sex couples.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris' request Tuesday to an appeals court considering the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban comes a week after the Obama administration said it would no longer defend a federal law that prohibits the U.S. from recognizing gay unions.

Together, the two actions represent a blow to opponents of gay marriage, as well as to Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative that banned the unions in California in 2008.

In a letter to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Harris joined the lawyers for two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco in seeking the resumption of gay marriages in California. The unions were put on hold while Proposition 8's sponsors appeal a trial judge's ruling striking down the ban.

Harris said those sponsors were unlikely to prevail in their appeal and that keeping the ban in effect was a fruitless violation of gay Californians' civil rights.

"The public interest weighs heavily against the government sanctioning such discrimination by permitting it to continue," she wrote.

Harris also said the case for allowing gay marriages was bolstered by the Obama administration's announcement last week that it would no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

While not directly relevant to Proposition 8, the administration's new position "substantially diminished" the likelihood the measure's sponsors will be successful in their effort to get the lower court ruling overturned, she said.

Andy Pugno, legal counsel for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that put Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot and campaigned for its passage, disputed the attorney general's contention that the prospects for a successful appeal were any more dim now.

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