California ends gay marriage

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After a heated, disruptive campaign fueled by a record $73 million of spending, California voters spoke Tuesday: Same-sex couples will no longer be allowed to legally marry in the Golden State.

Opponents promptly filed suit to try to block the measure from taking effect. With 95 percent of the vote counted Wednesday morning, a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage headed for a narrow victory.

Voters in Florida and Arizona also approved constitutional bans on gay marriage on Tuesday. Just two years earlier, Arizona was the first state to defeat a gay marriage ban at the ballot box.

California’s Supreme Court had declared same-sex marriage a right in May, unleashing a flood of weddings, but the state’s voters changed the Constitution to rescind the right after one of the most expensive ballot campaigns in history.

In the meantime, California has a separate domestic partnership law, which affords gay couples most, but not all, of the legal rights of marriage.

Across the country, 29 states now have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, including both Arizona and Florida, where measures barring the practice passed yesterday. Ten states, including California, allow gay couples either to marry or to join in civil unions with some of the legal protections of marriage.

The passage of Proposition 8 represents a crushing political defeat for gay rights activists, who had hoped public opinion on the contentious issue had shifted enough to help them defeat the measure.