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Proposition 8 consists of a single sentence: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

But it's hardly simple. Those 14 words would rescind the recently established right of single-sex couples to marry, and they would be fixed in the state constitution.

The same sentence was approved by voters in 2000 as an initiative statute, and it was overturned by the state Supreme Court as a violation of the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

We agreed with the Supreme Court's ruling this past May, and we encourage voters to affirm it by voting no on Proposition 8.

It's time to put this issue to rest.

The court ruled that the state constitution does not tolerate a distinction between unions of opposite-sex couples and those of same-sex couples. And we don't believe that voters should, as a matter of equity, fairness and decency, go out of their way to rewrite the constitution to create such a distinction.

Advocates of Proposition 8 offer several arguments, but none of them stand up to close scrutiny.

Supporters say traditional marriage will be undermined, but they struggle to make their case. How exactly will allowing two people to wed threaten the ability of opposite-sex couples to marry? One thing all sides should agree on is that the real threat to the institution of marriage is divorce. We need to get past this issue and focus on doing more to encourage people to stand by their vows.

Supporters also say children deserve two parents. They say churches will be threatened, and schools will be forced to teach alternative lifestyles. Domestic partnership, they argue, is an adequate alternative to marriage.

We agree that children are better off with two loving parents. But many children are in single-parent homes or foster care, and this measure won't change that. Gay and lesbian couples raise children, and allowing them to marry strengthens family bonds just as it does for heterosexual couples.

As for religious objections, nothing requires churches to sanctify same-sex marriages -- or any other marriage for that matter. In fact, there are strong state and federal constitutional protections for religious freedom, as there should be.

State law requires schools to teach respect for marriage and committed relationships, and to ensure instruction is age appropriate. So schools already are required -- as they should be -- to show respect for married couples and other partners, regardless of their sexual orientation.

California in recent years has offered domestic partnerships, but studies have shown that partners aren't always afforded the same treatment as spouses by hospitals, employers or the public at large.

In the state Supreme Court's ruling, Chief Justice Ron George said granting "same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship . . . is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples."

Supporters call that ruling the work of activist judges, but the state Supreme Court did its duty in overturning an unconstitutional law and reaffirming an important principle, that of equal protection.

Marriage is a fundamental right that belongs to same-sex couples just as it belongs to opposite-sex couples. The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on Proposition 8.

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