On Thursday, May 15th, in a 4-3 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that the ban on gay marriage violated the state Constitution's equal protection guarantee. It stated a separate system of domestic partnerships was not equal to the right of civil marriages. The court drew on a 60 year old ruling that struck down a ban on interracial marriages for their decision. The ruling was worded in such a way that it would strike down nearly any law aimed to discriminate based on sexual orientation. It also left open the possibility for the Legislature to use a term other than marriage for state-sanctioned unions as long as it was also applied to opposite sex couples and not used to distinguish between them.
The majority opinion, by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, declared that any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation will from this point on be constitutionally suspect in California in the same way as laws that discriminate by race or gender, making the state's high court the first in the nation to adopt such a stringent standard.
-read full Los Angeles Times article California Supreme Court overturns gay marriage ban
The decision will take effect 30 days from the ruling, June 14th by my count, meaning civil marriage rights must be granted to same-sex couples who live in California and wish to marry. But this will likely not be the end of the battle. Enough signatures for a ballot initiative to amend the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage had already been turned in for placement on the November ballot. The supporters of the ballot initiative expect it to pass. However, Gov. Arnold Schwarteneggar stated that he respected the Supreme Court's ruling, and that he did not support a Constitutional amendment.
Thursday's decision makes California the second state in the U.S. to grant civil marriage rights to same-sex couples, Massachusetts being the first. Same-sex marriages in these two states are only legal within those two states, and are not recognized by federal law. I am not clear whether the marriage rights will transfer between the two states, though I don't know why they wouldn't.
Thursday's ruling sparked reaction around the world. On Friday,Pope Benedict restated the Churches position on marriage.
"The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions," he said. from National Post article Pope restates gay marriage ban after California vote
I tell couples when I perform weddings, "You both know that although the state will make your union legal today and that this religious ceremony will bless you, it is only your commitment that will make this marriage real." But offering same sex couples the same rights, the same responsibilities, and the opportunity to participate in all that makes a marriage, including the use of the words, will help these couples and their children honor those commitments. read Rev Debra Haffner's post Celebrating the California Supreme Courts Decision on Marriage Equality
Personally, though I am thrilled about the California Supreme Court ruling and happy for gay Californians, I do worry about the national backlash, and that gay marriage will be brought to the forefront of the national election. It is not to say that I don't think it is an important issue, but it makes me angry that it becomes a wedge issue. Also, it seems that these sorts of rulings always spawn a push to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as one man to one woman. I know it's a long hard road and that change doesn't happen over night, I just wish people could see that we are just like everybody else.
For other bloggers reactions read
Dorothy Snarker's post My Weekend Crush at Dorothy Surrenders
Geeky Dragon Girl's post I now pronounce you gay and married at I Live Under a Rock
NYCROUGE's post "I love and adore you and I would be lucky to be in any union with you, civil or hostile." at Post No Bills: New York Adventures in Banality
Read the 172 page decision
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