Last Updated: 18:38 UK, Thursday August 12, 2004
San Francisco's gay marriages have been annulled
  San Francisco's gay marriages have been annulled

More than 4,000 gay marriages in San Francisco have been annulled by California's Supreme Court.

The court ruled the city had acted improperly in granting the marriage licences earlier this year in defiance of state law.

The mayor of the San Francisco ignited a passionate nationwide debate in February by allowing 4,037 same-sex couples to wed over a four-week period.

The California Supreme Court stopped the marriages while it reviewed the city's actions.

It has now ruled the city violated the law, since both legislation and a voter-approved measure defined marriage as a union between a man and woman.

The justices decided with a 5-2 vote to nullify the nearly 4,000 marriages.

The court, however, did not resolve whether the California Constitution would permit a same-sex marriage.

It ruled only on the narrow issue of whether local officials could bypass California's judicial and legislative branches.

Polls show most Californians continue to oppose gay marriage.