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Calif. Gay Marriage Ruling Goes Forward

California's highest court has refused to delay finalizing its ruling to legalize same-sex marriage, clearing the way for gays and lesbians in the most populous U.S. state to marry in less than two weeks.

Conservative religious and legal groups had asked the California Supreme Court to stop its order from becoming effective until voters have the chance to weigh in on the issue.

An initiative that would amend the state constitution to limit marriage to between a man and a woman has qualified for the Nov. 4 ballot. Its passage would overrule the court's decision.

The amendment's sponsors argued for delay, saying that chaos would ensue if couples could get married during the next few months, only to have the practice halted at the ballot box.

The same four justices who joined in the majority opinion that found withholding marriage from same-sex couples constituted discrimination denied the request. The three dissenting justices said they thought a hearing on whether the delay should be granted was warranted.

The majority did not elaborate on its reasons for the denial, but simply issued a one-page order saying its original ruling on marriage would be final at 5 p.m. on June 16.

The decision clears the way for gays and lesbians from across the United States to get married starting June 17, when state officials have said counties must start issuing new gender-neutral marriage licenses.

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