Same-sex marriage (SSM) in California
Reactions to the state Supreme Court
ruling and to the first same-sex marriages
The California legislature twice passed bills legalizing
same-sex marriage (SSM). Both were vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger (R).
The California Supreme Court heard a case brought by 15 same-sex
couples who were seeking the right to marry in the state. The justices issued their
decision on 2008-MAY-14. They overturned Proposition 22 which had banned
recognition of same-sex marriages in the state. The proposition had been passed by a
61% majority of California voters in the year 2000.
Reactions to the court ruling differed:
According to many religious and social conservatives. the
court was composed of activist justices who decided, on the basis of their own
radical beliefs, to create new marriage legislation, to overrule the wishes
of the people as expressed in Prop. 22, and to redefine the definition of
marriage in the state.
According to others, a majority on the court correctly found Prop. 22
to be in conflict with two clauses in the state constitution: one guaranteeing equal
protection to all citizens and one prohibiting sexual discrimination. Since the constitution automatically overrules
mere propositions and legislation, the
court was forced to rule that Prop. 22 was unconstitutional and that
same-sex couples should be able to marry,
The first legal same-sex marriage:
Same-sex couples began making appointments to obtain marriage
licenses and arranging marriage ceremonies very quickly after the California
Supreme Court handed down their decision. However, they couldn't be married
until the court ruling became finalized on JUN-16 at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.
At least five county clerks kept their office open after their
regular closing time to handle the rush of marriage license requests. Many couples were married on
The first couple to be married were Phyllis Lyon (84) and Del
Martin (87). They are a well known lesbian couple who have been together since
1952. They participated in a commitment ceremony in 1953, even though it had no
status in law. The state
at the time recognized them only as roommates. In 1955, they helped found the
Daughters of Bilitis, a pro-lesbian group that later spread across the
country. They bought a house together in 1956 and have lived in it ever since.
They joined the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club in 1972 and became active
members. A women's clinic, the Lyon-Martin Health Services, was named
after them. Joan E. Biren released a documentary film about their life together:
"No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon." They were
among the four thousand same-sex couples who married in 2004 only to have the
California Supreme Court forcibly divorce them against their will in August of
that year. They were among the 15 plaintiff couples who successfully challenged
Proposition 22 -- a plebiscite that had prevented the state from recognizing
same-sex marriage. 1,2
Cybercast News Service, a conservative Christian news
"At 5 p.m. PDT (8 p.m. EDT) Monday, the
California Supreme Court's May ruling creating homosexual marriage took
effect and the words 'Party A' and 'Party B' replaced 'bride' and
'groom' on marriage licenses. Hundreds, if not thousands, of same-sex
couples throughout California took advantage of the occasion.
" 'We've crested a mountain here,' Buckel
[marriage project director for the
Lambda Legal Defense Foundation], told Cybercast News Service.
'It's incredibly important for this trek towards equality and meeting
the promise of full freedom. But there are many other mountains to go'."
- Religious and social liberals are generally very excited that marriage
is extended to same-sex couples. They talk in terms of fundamental human
rights, marriage equality, and equal protection for same-sex couples and
their children. They draw parallels between SSM, the extension of marriage
to inter-racial couples in the 1960s, and the extension of marriage to
African-Americans in the mid-19th century after the civil war.
- Religious and social conservatives are very saddened at what they view
as a redefinition of marriage that is endangering traditional marriage -- an
institution that has endured unchanged for millennia. They view SSM as being
imposed on the nation as the court forces "same-sex 'marriage' down the
throats of Americans." They typically refer to the word "marriage" in
quotation marks when it refers to same-sex couples in order to indicate
their rejection of the concept.
Some specific reactions:
Kathryn Kolbert, President of People for the American Way -- a liberal
rights advocacy group, wrote:
"It was an incredibly moving week for me. Couples in California
who have been denied equality for so long began to get married -- in
weddings recognized by the largest state in the nation. It's one of
those rare moments when we can actually recognize history as it's being
made -- both for the country and for the couples and families
celebrating this week. ...
This week's images were so positive, so reflective of what's
best in our lives and communities, that it is jarring to be reminded
that some people will stop at nothing to pull the rug out from under
these couples. If you saw what comes across my desk every day, you'd
understand that this is Armageddon for the Far Right.
It's not just ridiculous end-of-civilization rhetoric. The
Right knows how high the stakes are on this, and they fear the public is
moving away from them on this issue. They know that if their ballot
initiative to roll back equality fails, they will lose their ability to
dismiss progress as the actions of a few rogue judges overriding the
will of the people. So they are pulling out every lie in their heavy
handbook. And they are pouring millions of dollars into their campaign
to reverse the tide of history." 4
Rick Cole is senior pastor at Capital Christian Center, a church
affiliated with the Assemblies of God -- a fundamentalist Christian
He told reporters that he was not encouraging his church members to
demonstrate against the SSMs. He said: "I don't
believe that would be an appropriate way of expressing our values, and I
would hope that doesn't happen. Our desire has been to approach it from whatever we can do
EqualMarriage.ca is a website that has promoted marriage equality in Canada.
It has been largely dormant since 2005-JUL when SSM became legalized across Canada.
The news from California woke them up. They wrote an article titled "Congratulations
California: dreams come true." They offered congratulations to Del Martin
and Phyllis Lyons, "... who will be the first same-sex couple to be legally
married in California..." EqualMarriage.ca wrote in part:
"We congratulate couples and early activists like Molly
MacKay and Davina Kotulski for
their example, and support, as they told their personal stories and encouraged
others to do the same. Through their personal engagement, and through the
organizations they have worked with, they have been instrumental in helping
Californians understand the basic human principals involved in marriage
equality. We applaud political leaders for their courage, including California
Assemblyman Mark Leno and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. We thank human
rights workers including the board of directors and members of Equality
California, Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights,
Marriage Equality USA, and Equality Forum for their vision and commitment in
U.S., and for their support of our own efforts in Canada."
"Canadian tourism representatives are already downplaying the potential impact
to being the destination of choice for marriage-minded LGBT travelers
("California gay marriage law won't likely hurt travel to B.C.", Vancouver Sun,
May 17, 2008), but wedding planners in Toronto are nervous ("Wedding cake
bittersweet", by Daniel Dale, The Toronto Star, May 16, 2008), while the San
Francisco Chronicle has a story headlined "SF hopes for big slice of gay
marriage money" (May 18, 2008). We are thrilled to add more countries and states
to our list of locations offering equal marriage for same-sex couples."
The Family Research Council condemned SSM in a news item called
"Happy Parent #1 Day:"
"Honor thy Mother and Father should be the simplest of the
Ten Commandments to follow, yet as a society
we are failing to do so. In California we told, by order of four
activist judges, that having both a mother and a father is completely
unnecessary in bringing up a child. 'Such roles of a Mom and Dad are
antiquated' imply these judges, and they can be replaced by Parent #1
and Parent #2, regardless of gender. As in most families, my mom and dad
still play very significant and unique roles in my life. What they have
taught me--and continue to teach me--will be passed on to my children
and grandchildren. Probably unaware of the irony, the California Supreme
Court has ruled that this coming Monday, the day after Father's Day,
California will put its official stamp of approval on the intentional
creation of permanently fatherless (or motherless) families. If it
stands, this ruling will effectively eliminate the true meaning of
Father's Day, which is to honor the men in our lives who have played a
unique and truly irreplaceable role. FRC is hoping to drive this point
home in ads running across the state of California this weekend."
There is, of course, nothing to prevent a child from honoring any male father
figure on Father's Day who has paid a major mentoring role in their life.
- Marcos Breton, a
TV newscaster in Sacramento, CA was once "deeply
against same-sex marriage." He wrote:
"Here in Sacramento, we saw people standing in long lines,
bursting with joy at the promise of holy matrimony, committing to
fidelity and devotion.
At the county clerk's office, there were protesters shouting into
bullhorns on one side of the street – and people holding flowers and
saying 'I do' on the other.
A notable Sacramentan, Dennis Mangers, was among them, marrying
his partner of 17 years in a ceremony attended by many of the city's
movers and shakers.
Mangers is a Capitol insider, consigliere to Sacramento's
powerful, a devoted patron of the arts who has helped make the city
a better place.
He and new spouse Michael Sestak begin each dinner at home by
holding hands and saying 'thank you' for each other. 'Dennis is
God's cherished gift to me,' Sestak said during their marriage
"At one time, interracial marriage was against the law in
California. There was a whole body of law and 'tradition' to support
that now discredited idea.
It went away because this is America and the rights of all win
out eventually." 9
Phelps is pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, KS.
His church sponsors the "God Hates Fags," "God Hates America,"
"America is Doomed," "God Hates Canada," and other similarly named
websites. His church has received a great deal of notoriety for
nosily picketing the funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq.
Their church website announced that the WBC would picked "the
same-sex sinful outrage of godless California" at the Los Angeles
California county clerk's office on JUN-13. The site states that any
marriage other that one-man one-woman is " 'strange flesh' (Jude 7)
and is abominable, filthy, [and] detestable to God." 8
of the Associated Press wrote:
"Serenaded by a gay men's chorus, showered with rose petals and
toasted with champagne, hundreds of tearful same-sex couples got
married across the state Tuesday in what some are calling
California's new Summer of Love.
Wearing everything from T-shirts to tuxedos and lavish gowns,
they rushed down to county clerks' offices to obtain marriage
licenses and exchange vows on the first full day that gay marriage
became legal in California by order of the state's highest court.
They were joined by jubilant crowds that came to witness the event.
George Takei, who played Sulu on the original 'Star Trek,' beamed
as he and his partner of 21 years, Brad Altman, obtained one of the
new gender-neutral marriage licenses — with the words "Party A" and
"Party B" instead of "bride" and "groom" — at the West Hollywood
City Hall. They are planning a September wedding. ..."
"There were scattered demonstrations outside some offices and
courthouses. About a dozen protesters stood across the street from
the Sacramento County recorder's office, carrying signs that read,
'Marriage 1 man + 1 woman' and 'Resist Judicial Tyranny.'
'It's something to just pray about. It's not a time to be
joyful,' 16-year-old demonstrator Juliya Lyubezhanina said as she
watched dozens of balloon- and rainbow flag-carrying couples."
- An ad ran across California during the weekend of 2008-JUN-13/14. Over an
image of a marriage license and birth certificate, the text reads: "Beginning
Monday, judges are removing the word husband from California
marriage certificates." This is true, but incomplete. They removed
both the words husband and wife.
The form shown in the ad refers to
"Party #1" and "Party #2" in place of "bride" and "groom."
In California, the actual form reads "Party A" and "Party B."
The ad continues: "The next step will be to remove the term Father
from birth certificates." None of us at this web site can understand why
this logically follows from the court's decision in favor of marriage equality.
Every child has a biological father.
Next, the ad states: "Enjoy this Father's Day ... It might be your last." Again,
we cannot fathom what this means. Probably in excess of 98% of married couples
in California will be of opposite sexes in the future, producing one mother and one father
in each family to celebrate mother's day and father's day.
Children in families headed by same-sex couples will be able to celebrate twice
on mother's day or twice on Father's Day.
Finally, the ad states: "Every child deserves a Mon and Dad." They offer no
reason why this is important. The Canadian federal government funded and later
suppressed a meta-study of over 100
mostly American research programs. The latter studied the effect that various
styles of families had on the socialization of their children. The meta-study showed that children thrive with same-sex parents at least as
well as they do with opposite-sex parents. 7
- John Horvat is
webmaster of http://www.tfp.org/ -- a
Roman Catholic website for The American Society for the Defense of
Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) It "... was formed to
resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends
of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and
property." He wrote on JUN-13:
"Tomorrow marks a sad and tragic day in our nation’s history.
On this day, the decision by the California Supreme Court to allow same-sex
'marriage' will be implemented. This terrible decision will create legal havoc
across the nation and be used as a battering ram to impose same-sex 'marriage'
across the nation. Since the homosexual movement has faced dismal results
whenever the issue is put to a vote, the new strategy is to force same-sex
'marriage' down the throats of Americans through judicial decisions. In face of
this great outrage, I am asking if you could join with me tomorrow by taking
some time out of your schedule to pray in reparation for what will be done
tomorrow. I would ask you to pray and make sacrifices as a way of asking God to
save our nation. I will be especially praying for a great victory for the
California marriage amendment in November. Could you join me in this effort?
Perhaps you could spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament at a nearby
adoration chapel? If we unite in prayers and efforts, we are confident that Our
Lord will hear our prayers. We are heartened by the defeat of the Treaty of
Lisbon which would have led to the imposing of an anti-Catholic agenda on
Ireland. Let us pray that similar things will happen here!" 11
- At least 14
employees of the clerk's office for San Diego County expressed unwillingness
to marry same-sex couples because of religious bias. They were reassigned to
other jobs. 12
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon," Wikipedia, at:
Lisa Leff, "Legal lesbians: Same-sex couple of 55 years first to wed in
California," Associated Press, at:
Pete Winn, "California Same-sex Marriage Ceremonies Begin," Cybercast News
Service, 2008-JUN-17, at:
Kathryn Kolbert, "Friday Note: History being made," Newsletter, People for the
American Way, 2008-JUN-20.
Bobby Calvan. "Sacramento police will keep watch when gay weddings start,"
SacBee, 2008-JUN-12, at:
"Happy Parent #1 Day," Family Research Council newsletter, 2008-JUN-13.
The Family Research Council ad in PDF format is available at:
"News Release," Westboro Baptist Church, 2008-JUN-11, at:
Marcos Bretón, "I once would have opposed gay marriage, but times have changed,"
SacBee, 2008-JUN-28, at:
Lisa Leff, "Hundreds of same-sex couples wed across California," Associated
Press, 2008-JUN-15, at:
John Horvat, "Can you pray with me?," The American TFP newsletter, 2008-JUN-13.
"Clerks Reassigned after Refusing to Perform Gay 'Marriages'," CitizenLink.com,
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2008-JUN-19
Latest update: 2008-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson