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San Francisco Mayor Condemns Refusal to Marry Gays

Adam Tanner and Mary Milliken

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose fight to allow same-sex weddings won California court approval last week, expressed outrage on Thursday that San Diego County may allow some clerks to decline to wed homosexuals.0523 09

A split California Supreme Court ruled a week ago that the state's law barring gays from marrying was unconstitutional and opened the way to such weddings starting in mid-June. The decision came after Newsom forced the issue before the courts by briefly allowing gays to marry in 2004.

On Wednesday, San Diego County Clerk Gregory Smith said he would consider allowing clerks to bow out of processing such marriages if they had moral or religions objections.

"I was pretty shocked about all that, candidly, and pretty outraged," Newsom told Reuters in an interview.

"This is a civil marriage that civil servants have a responsibility to provide, so for civil servants on religious grounds to start passing judgments, they, I think, are breaking the core tenet of what civil service is all about."

"I've got very strong religious beliefs. So now, all of a sudden, I don't have to do certain things, even though that's my responsibility as mayor?"

The latest flap showed that gay marriage remains very contentious in the nation's most populous state even after the legal decision cleared the way to make California only the second U.S. state to allow gays to marry after Massachusetts.

The legal fight could also continue. Late on Thursday, a group opposing gay marriage filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to rehear the case.

The mayor, who said he will wed his actress girlfriend in a ceremony in Montana this summer, suggested that clerks who refused to marry gays in California should lose their jobs.

"If that is their job and they are going to be able to pick and choose based on their morality, then all of a sudden they are not doing their jobs," said Newsom, a Democrat thinking about running for governor to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"If you don't want to provide a marriage certificate and you've got a job that does that, then you should think twice about why you got the job in the first place and maybe you should get a new job," he continued. "Talk about a slippery slope, Mr. County Clerk down in San Diego."

Smith in San Diego did not return calls for comment.

In the interview, Newsom also said he expected a business boom from gay weddings across the state starting in June for hotels, caterers, clothing stores, jewelry stores and others. The possibility of a California constitutional amendment on the November ballot could again halt gay marriages, making the decision to wed in the state before then all the more pressing.

"I think we are going to see tens of thousands of couples," he said. "It will certainly be millions in spending."

Editing by Eric Walsh

© 2008 Reuters

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