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Same-sex marriage in California

Same-sex marriage authorized by
state Supreme Court on 2008-MAY-14


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Background:

In the year 2000, 61% of Californians passed Proposition 22. It restricted marriage in the state to one man and one woman, and prevented the state from recognizing same-sex marriages (SSM) solemnized in other jurisdictions. However, the legislature has since passed many bills that gave same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples. Most recently, the legislature passed two bills that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Both were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). Public acceptance of SSM has increased significantly since 2000. It is debatable whether such a proposition would pass today.

A lawsuit made its way towards the California Supreme Court in an attempt to make same-sex marriages available to all loving, committed couples in California. It involved:

  • 15 same-sex couples, the city of San Francisco, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Equality California as plaintiffs.

  • State Attorney General Jerry Brown, an unknown lawyer representing , and fundamentalist Christian groups such as Campaign for California Families and Liberty Counsel were respondents.

It is curious that the Campaign for California Families is fully committed to campaign against those California families that are led by same-sex couples. Also, Liberty Counsel is fully dedicated to preventing same-sex couples from having the liberty to marry.

The court heard oral arguments on 2008-MAR-04. They issued their decision on MAY-14. It overturned Proposition 22 because it violated to clauses in the state Constitution: one guarantees equal protection to all citizens; the other cites marriage as a basic civil right. 


Supreme Court rules that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional:

The British Broadcasting Corporation reported on 2008-MAY-14:

"California's top court has ruled that a state law banning marriage between same-sex couples is unconstitutional."

"The state's Supreme Court said the 'right to form a family relationship' applied to all Californians regardless of sexuality."

"The ban was approved by voters in 2000 but challenged by gay rights activists and the city of San Francisco."

"The state legislature twice passed laws to legalize gay marriage, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed them. He said California's court system should rule on the matter."

"The seven-judge panel voted 4-3 in favor of the plaintiffs who argued that the 2000 law was discriminatory."

" 'Limiting the designation of marriage to a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute,' California Chief Justice Ron George said in the written opinion." 1

Chief Justice George wrote:

  • "Whatever our views as individuals with regard to this question [same-sex marriage] as a matter of policy, we recognize as judges and as a court our responsibility to limit our consideration of the question to a determination of the constitutional validity of the current legislative provisions.
  • "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."
  • We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples." 5

Justice George appears to believe that there are only two sexual orientations: heterosexual or homosexual. There is in fact a third orientation: bisexuality. A minority of same-sex couples are composed of one homosexual and one bisexual; a very small percentage are composed of two bisexuals. This is a vary common error found everywhere in law, the media, and court decisions.

Justice Marvin Baxter, writing for the minority, agreed with many arguments in the ruling but said that the court exceeded its authority. He believes that changes to marriage laws should be determined by the voters.

It typically takes 30 days for decisions of the court to become final. Couples were only able to marry starting in mid-June.

Almost 200,000 Californians are involved in a same-sex relationships. Within a few hours, couples were lining up at the San Francisco City Hall to make appointments to get their marriage licenses.


Some immediate reactions:

  • Plaintiff Robin Tyler said: "Essentially, this boils down to love. We love each other. We now have equal rights under the law. We're going to get married. No Tupperware, please."
     
  • James Dobson, chairman of the fundamentalist group Focus on the Family, described the decision as an "outrage."
     
  • Associated Press reported: "Tim Oviatt wept as he watched the news on TV. 'I've been waiting for this all my life. This is a life-affirming moment,' he said."
     
  • San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told a crowd at City Hall: "It's about human dignity. It's about human rights. It's about time in California." As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It's inevitable. This door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not." On another occasion, he said: "With this decision comes a new reality, and it will be advanced, we hope, with tens of thousands of couples getting married between now and November." 3

  • James Vaughn, director of the California Log Cabin Republicans -- a pro-homosexual group -- said that the ruling is a "conservative one. ...The justices have ensured that the law treats all Californians fairly and equally. This decision is a good one for all families, gay and non-gay."

  • Plaintiff Jeanie Rizzo called her partner of 19 years via cell phone, and asked her "Pali, will you marry me?" 2 We suspect that the answer was yes.
     
  • When Beth Hillman, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, CA picked up her two daughters at school, she told them about the court decision. She said: "... They went running down the hall of their preschool singing 'Mommy and Mama are getting married.' And they looked at me with such happy eyes." 3

California Supreme Court finalizes their decision:

Several fundamentalist Christian groups submitted a Petition for Stay and for Rehearing to the Supreme Court. The court was asked to stay their MAY-15 decision until after the November vote. The petition was denied by the same 4-3 vote that passed the original decision. The court decision became final on 2008-JUN-16 at 5 PM, PT. Many thousands of committed same-sex couples will probably marry between mid-JUN and early NOV.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law said:

"Denying a stay in light of the certification of the Marriage Protection Act for the November ballot reveals the political agenda of a handful of judges. Judges acting as judges and not as legislators would have granted the stay. The battle over marriage is far from over and will not be decided by four judges." 4 (Emphasis theirs)


References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "California lifts gay marriage ban," BBC News, 2008-MAY-14, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  2. Lisa Leff, "California's top court legalizes gay marriage," Associated Press, 2008-MAY-14, at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/
  3. Sue Rochman, "Summer of love, winter of struggle," The Advocate, 2008-JUL-01, Page 36.
  4. Mat Staver, "Staver cites California Supreme Court's 'Political Agenda' in rejecting stay," Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, 2008-JUN-05, at: http://americansfortruth.com/
  5. Text of the Supreme Court's ruling S147999, Supreme Court of California, 2008-JUN-15, at: http://www.eqca.org/ This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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