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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in California

Reactions to the state Supreme Court
ruling and to the first same-sex marriages

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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,

More details.

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 spot.

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 source commented:

"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'." 3


Reactions differ:

  • 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

  • Rev. Rick Cole is senior pastor at Capital Christian Center, a church affiliated with the Assemblies of God -- a fundamentalist Christian denomination. 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 legislatively." 5

  • 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..." 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 ceremony. ..."

    "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

  • Fred 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

  • Lisa Leff 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."  10

  • 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 -- 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

References used:

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

  1. "Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon," Wikipedia, at:
  2. Lisa Leff, "Legal lesbians: Same-sex couple of 55 years first to wed in California," Associated Press, at:
  3. Pete Winn, "California Same-sex Marriage Ceremonies Begin," Cybercast News Service, 2008-JUN-17, at:
  4. Kathryn Kolbert, "Friday Note: History being made," Newsletter, People for the American Way, 2008-JUN-20.
  5. Bobby Calvan. "Sacramento police will keep watch when gay weddings start," SacBee, 2008-JUN-12, at:
  6. "Happy Parent #1 Day," Family Research Council newsletter, 2008-JUN-13.
  7. The Family Research Council ad in PDF format is available at:
  8. "News Release," Westboro Baptist Church, 2008-JUN-11, at:
  9. Marcos Bretón, "I once would have opposed gay marriage, but times have changed," SacBee, 2008-JUN-28, at:
  10. Lisa Leff, "Hundreds of same-sex couples wed across California," Associated Press, 2008-JUN-15, at:
  11. John Horvat, "Can you pray with me?," The American TFP newsletter, 2008-JUN-13.
  12. "Clerks Reassigned after Refusing to Perform Gay 'Marriages',", 2008-JUN-20, at:

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-JUN-19
Latest update: 2008-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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