When will same-sex couples be able to marry?
The decision will take effect 30 days after it was issued. Los Angeles County and San Francisco officials are reviewing the decision and have not said when they will begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
Will out-of-state couples be allowed to marry in California?
Yes, but their home states may not recognize the marriages. Massachusetts and New York are expected to recognize California marriages.
How is that different from what happens in Massachusetts, the only other state that permits same-sex marriage?
In Massachusetts, marriage licenses are not granted to residents of states that prohibit same-sex marriages.
Will the federal government recognize a California same-sex marriage?
The federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage. This means that married couples of the same sex cannot file joint federal income tax returns or receive federal spousal benefits, including those from the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs. A U.S. citizen who marries a foreigner of the same sex in California will not be allowed to sponsor the spouse to immigrate here.
In 2004, the California Supreme Court voided about 4,000 same-sex marriage licenses granted in San Francisco. Are those marriages now legally recognized by the state?
No. Those couples would have to remarry.
What happens to domestic partnerships?
They still exist under current law in California.
If an employer grants health insurance to an employee's spouse, will the company provide insurance for same-sex spouses?
Probably. Same-sex marriage proponents have said that in Massachusetts, most employers have opted to grant spousal benefits to same-sex spouses, even though employers could argue that they are not required to do so under a federal law that preempts state rules for employee benefit plans.
Can the court's ruling be overturned?
Only by an amendment to the California constitution.
Is such an amendment likely?
Opponents of same-sex marriage have already submitted an amendment. Officials are reviewing whether sponsors have enough signatures to qualify it for November's ballot.
If the measure passes, what will happen to same-sex couples married between now and November?
It is unclear, according to the state attorney general's office. The issue would probably be subject to legal challenges.
Can this decision be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court?
No. The decision rests on provisions of the California Constitution.
How did the state Supreme Court become involved?
After San Francisco began allowing same-sex couples to wed there in 2004, the court invalidated the marriages on grounds that city officials had overstepped bounds. It declined to address the constitutionality of a state ban then, waiting for lower courts to rule.
Sources: USC law professor David Cruz, USC law professor Clare Pastore, Lambda Legal, Los Angeles County registrar-recorder, California secretary of state, San Francisco office of the county clerk, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Times reporting