Gay Marriage Changes Won't End Debate

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Like their counterparts in California, Nevada voters approved a ban on same sex marriage in a question placed on the ballot by initiative petition. Thursday's ruling by the State Supreme Court of California removing a ban on gay marriages effectively overturned a vote of the California people.

So, what effect might this decision have on this side of the state line and on the initiative process itself?

In California, the reaction expected. "Molly is in Italy and I'm asking her to marry me and she is absolutely saying she will so I could not be happier, said same sex marriage supporter Jean Rizzo, "This is a big day"

"Well we're disappointed in the ruling,” said Andrew Pugno of the Proposition 22 Defense Fund. "It was very difficult to reach which direction the court was going to go and I think that is why 1.1 million Californians went out and signed a petition to put this issue on the ballot in November to take the issue away from the courts and allow the people to decide one and for all what marriage means."

But if that measure makes the ballot and if Californians approve it will it pass muster?
Here in Reno, political scientist Fred Lokken says there are instances where not even a public vote can change the constitution.

"Can any of the language in the constitution be overturned? On the federal level we've said no. There are parts of the constitution that can't be changed even by a vote of the people or Congress or anything other than another constitutional convention."

Lokken says the ruling is unlikely to affect the initiative process here in Nevada where it's increasingly used, but he says it should give pause. It does give the voter a chance to weigh in directly on issues, he says, but that doesn't guarantee the end result will pass judicial muster or in some cases is even wise.

This appeal and this ruling was based on a reading of the California State Constitution, not the US Constitution, though the plaintiffs believe the ban also violated the federal equal protection clause.

So, if the new initiative makes it on the ballot and wins it would change the state constitution to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. The effect of today's ruling would then be short-lived.

More debate, more legal action is almost certain.