Same-sex marriage in California
Same-sex marriage authorized by
state Supreme Court on 2008-MAY-14
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."
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
- "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."
- 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)
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"California lifts gay marriage ban," BBC News, 2008-MAY-14, at:
Lisa Leff, "California's top court legalizes gay marriage," Associated Press,
Sue Rochman, "Summer of love, winter of struggle," The Advocate, 2008-JUL-01,
Mat Staver, "Staver cites California Supreme Court's 'Political Agenda' in
rejecting stay," Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, 2008-JUN-05, at:
Text of the Supreme Court's ruling S147999, Supreme Court of California,
http://www.eqca.org/ This is a PDF file.
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2008-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson