Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
(07-14) 13:21 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — California Chief Justice Ronald George, a judge for 38 years and author of the 2008 ruling that briefly legalized same-sex marriage in the state, said today he will not seek re-election in November and will retire from the bench in January.
George, 70, was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1991 by Gov. Pete Wilson, who then named him chief justice five years later. George won a new 12-year term in 1998 despite opposition by anti-abortion groups because of his ruling overturning a state law that required parental consent for minors’ abortions.
Some opponents of same-sex marriage had discussed mounting a campaign against George after he wrote the 4-3 ruling in May 2008 striking down state laws that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He said the laws discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and violated gays’ and lesbians’ fundamental right to marry the partner of their choice.
Voters overturned the ruling by passing Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment, in November 2008. George wrote the court’s 6-1 ruling in May 2009 that upheld Prop. 8 while criticizing rules that make it easy to qualify and enact initiatives affecting basic rights.
His announcement today came as a surprise. He had given several interviews in which he indicated he would seek a new term in November.
In a statement, George said he had decided that “now is the right time – while I am still at the top of my game – to leave while the proverbial music still plays and return to private life.”
He said he was making the announcement in time for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also leaves office in January, to nominate a successor.
George, a former deputy state attorney general, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. He was promoted to the Superior Court by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977 and to a state appeals court by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1987.