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As expected, the California Supreme Court stepped into one of the thorniest legal issues of modern times Wednesday by agreeing unanimously to decide whether a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional. The decision was met with glee by advocates of gay marriage. “Marriage equality is the major civil rights issue of our time,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose city defied state law in 2004 by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said in a prepared statement. “And the state’s highest court clearly recognizes it should have the final word on the issue in California.” Randy Thomasson, spokesman for Voteyesmarriage.com, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, told the Associated Press he was disappointed. “If the law ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “This is bad news for marriage and the voters of California who already passed a state law reaffirming that marriage is a natural and beautiful institution between a man and a woman.” Last year, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that California’s laws restricting marriage to male-female couples violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the state Constitution. But by a 2-1 vote, San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal reversed Kramer two months ago, saying it was “rational” for the state Legislature to preserve a definition of marriage that “has existed throughout history and which continues to represent the common understanding of marriage in most other countries and states of our union.” The case is In re Marriage Cases, S147999.

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