OK, full disclosure, I am a gay man and an attorney, so I am still pouring over the 172 pages of opinions that came from the California Supreme Court today, declaring "that permitting opposite-sex couples to marry while affording same-sex couples access only to the novel and less-recognized status of domestic partnership improperly infringes a same-sex couple's constitutional rights to marry and to the equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the California Constitution." In short, the Court, made up of 6 Republicans and 1 Democrat, held in a 4-3 decision that attempts to preserve the "marriage" nomenclature for opposite-sex couples, while bestowing all of the rights, privileges, benefits, and obligations of marriage on same-sex couples under the guise of "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions" was to place same-sex couples in a second class category in violation of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution (the case was decided completely under the California Constitution, so is not reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court). A very similar issue is currently pending before the Connecticut Supreme Court as well.
This is a major victory for those of us who believe that marriage is a fundamental individual right protected by our constitutions, and that implicit in that fundamental individual right is the right to choose who one will marry. It pays to remember that there was a time not so very long ago when the government told whites and blacks that they could not, as a matter of law, marry across their racial lines.
Reactionary religious forces were quick to react. Matt Barber, the Policy Director for Cultural Issues for Concerned Women for America (stands to reason that their Policy Director would be male) said:
"So-called 'same-sex marriage' is a ridiculous and oxymoronic notion that has been forced into popular lexicon by homosexual activists and their extremist left-wing allies. If people who engage in homosexual behavior want to dress up and play house, that's their prerogative, but we shouldn't destroy the institutions of legitimate marriage and family in order to help facilitate a counterfeit."
There will no doubt be efforts made to put this issue on the ballot in California in the fall with an effort to amend the California Constitution.
From a political standpoint, this creates a real problem for the Democratic presidential candidates, particularly Senator Obama, the presumptive nominee. Democrats have been fundamentally dishonest on the issue of same-sex marriage for some time now, trying to hold the center by favoring some form of "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions" for same-sex couples, while preserving the religiously infused and normative category of "marriage" for opposite-sex couples. GLBT persons have let them get away with this because of some bizarre belief that these politicians really didn't believe what they were saying about marriage and that, in the dark of night, they really, really, really were on our side (President Clinton's deplorable and disgraceful signing of the federal Defense of Marriage Act apparently notwithstanding). Now Senator Obama will have to tell us whether he believes the California Supreme Court is correct when it holds that anything less than full marriage rights, including the nomenclature, relegates same-sex couples to some second class status that should not be tolerated in Senator Obama's new paradigm for American politics.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger responded to the decision in this manner, "I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
Let's see who the Straight Talkers (pun very much intended) are now . . . . . .
As for me, I am grabbing my man, picking out a gown, and heading for San Francisco.