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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 February, 2004, 09:35 GMT
Schwarzenegger fights gay unions
Gay couple look at wedding rings, San Francisco
Gay couples are flocking to San Francisco
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has told his top legal official to act against the city of San Francisco for allowing gay marriages.

He ordered the state's attorney-general to take immediate steps to get a court ruling against the same-sex weddings.

Mr Schwarzenegger said they represented "an imminent risk to civil order".

More than 3,000 gay couples have been married in San Francisco since the city's new mayor decided to defy state law and allow such weddings.

On Friday, a judge denied a request by the conservative group, Campaign for California Families, for an injunction halting the same-sex marriages.

He said the group had failed to show convincing evidence that allowing gay weddings to continue would cause irreparable harm.

It was the second failed attempt to secure an injunction barring the unions.

'Rule of law'

Hours after Friday's court hearing, Mr Schwarzenegger wrote to the state's attorney general, Bill Lockyero.

We urge the governor to meet with some of the couples because what's happening is both lawful and loving
San Francisco mayor's spokesman
"Our civilised society and legal system is based upon a respect for and adherence to the rule of law," he wrote.

"The city and county of San Francisco's unfortunate choice to disregard state law and grant marriage certificates to gay couples directly undermines this fundamental guarantee.

"Because the city and county of San Francisco's actions are directly contrary to state law and present an imminent risk to civil order, I hereby direct you to take immediate steps to obtain a definitive judicial resolution of this controversy."

San Francisco's Mayor, Gavin Newsom, believes the state law requiring marriage to be the union of a man and a woman discriminates against gays and lesbians.

Gay couple celebrate wedding
Gay couples hope more cities will follow San Francisco's lead
As well as issuing marriage licences, his officials are also suing the state in an attempt to the get the law overturned.

A spokesman for the mayor, reacting to Mr Schwarzenegger's directive, said: "The truth is, thousands of people are involved in loving relationships and having them recognised for the first time.

"We urge the governor to meet with some of the couples because what's happening is both lawful and loving."

Gay men and lesbians have travelled from across the US to get married in San Francisco.

The BBC's David Willis in San Francisco says some regard what is happening in the city as a landmark moment in the struggle for gay rights and have likened it to the campaign against racial segregation in America.

Massachusetts case

Californians voted against gay and lesbian marriages under Proposition 22 in 2000, which says marriage is limited to one man and one woman.

Only the state of Vermont sanctions civil unions between same-sex couples, while Massachusetts, after a state High Court ruled that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional, is set to become the first state to approve same-sex marriage later this year.

On Friday, a county in the western state of New Mexico briefly issue marriage licences to dozens of gay couples.

"We were issuing licences today but we stopped because the state attorney-general issued a statement," Sandoval County clerk's office official Melinda Foster said.

New Mexico attorney-general Patricia Madrid declined to formally rule on the issue, but issued an advisory letter stating that "no county clerk should issue a marriage license to same-sex couples because those licenses would be invalid under current law".

The BBC's David Willis
"The mayor has reportedly received death threats"

Bush speaks against gay weddings
19 Feb 04  |  Americas
San Francisco gays wed - for now
18 Feb 04  |  Americas
Gay couples wed in San Francisco
13 Feb 04  |  Americas
US state court says gays can wed
04 Feb 04  |  Americas

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