Sunday, August 15, 2004 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA


Time to discuss the California Supreme Court ruling concerning gay marriage. As you know, the justices ruled against Mayor Gavin Newsome. The court stated he had no authority to start issuing marriage licenses in San Francisco. It also annulled over 4,000 same-sex marriages that took place in California.

Believe me, this is not the great victory that the Christian right thinks it is. (Where were the outcries concerning “activist judges”?) It is simply one step along the path in testing a questionable law by a public official and the citizens of California. That this is true is shown by the fact that the Court did not go on to rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage. This has been reserved for another time and place. The Court itself stated that, “Should the state ban on gay marriages be judicially overturned as unconstitutional, same-sex couples would then be free to enter valid marriages.”

As always though, the Courts decision had an adverse effect on the innocent people involved. In an enormous case of collateral damage, 8,000+ people saw their marriages come to an end. Forget the imposition on their families caused by lost health care insurance. Forget the higher taxes they will have to pay because of no longer being married. Forget the children who will no longer have the legality of two parents to protect them. Instead, concentrate on the pain that must have been felt by the couples involved.

Many of these couples waited 10, 30, some over 50 years to be able to legally say they were married. They can no longer do so. They will have to wait longer. Although the state will refund the money involved that was paid for their licenses, most will not turn them in to the administration to collect their cash. They will keep them were they now reside, in a frame on the wall of their home.

The bottom line is that marriage isn’t just about benefits, it’s about the love and commitment between two people that is recognized by the government of the country in which one resides. No matter what your opinion of gay marriage, you should be able to feel the pain of these people being told that they are no longer married. How would you feel if the government sent you a letter and said that due to a court ruling your marriage is null and void? That’s exactly what’s happening to these people right now.

To put the California Supreme Court ruling into perspective you should read the Superior Court ruling of the State of Washing for King County v Heather Andersen and Leslie Christian in its entirety. I have never read a more positive document concerning gay marriage and believe me, I’ve read a lot of them. Here are a few tidbits:

“In our pluralistic society the moral views of the majority can never provide the sole basis for legislation. It is clear that Americans have differing views as to what morality requires in the definition of marriage. It is not for our secular government to choose between religions and take moral or religious sides in such a debate.”

“It is true that marriage has long been defined as the union of one man and one woman. It is equally true that the shape of marriage has drastically changed over the years. It took a very long time for the courts to break down the traditional stereotypes that relegated women to second class status in society and in the marital relationship. As the Massachusetts Supreme Court has noted, ‘it is circular reasoning, not analysis, to maintain that marriage must remain a heterosexual institution because that is what it historically has been.’ While not to be ignored, the backward view toward tradition must neither be treated as binding nor allowed to be binding. Serving tradition, for the sake of tradition alone, is not a compelling state interest.”

“Some declaim that the institutions of marriage and family are weak these days and, in fact, stand threatened. Any trial court judge who regularly hears divorce, child abuse and domestic violence cases deeply shares this concern. It is not difficult, however, to identify both the causes of the present situation and the primary future threat. They come from inside the institution, not outside of it. Not to be too harsh, but they are a shortage of commitment and an excess of selfishness. Before the Court stand eight couples who credibly represent that they are ready and willing to make the right kind of commitment to partner and family for the right kinds of reasons. All they ask is for the state to make them able.”

“The laws never have placed a requirement on marriage that the parties procreate nor do they prohibit from marriage those who are unable or disinclined to procreate. Many families today are created through adoption, the foster parent system and assisted reproduction technologies. This last point is well illustrated by some of the plaintiffs who, thanks to government recognition of the fact that their sexual orientation is no bar to good parenting, are presently able to enjoy family lives with children.”

“After long and careful reflection, it is this Court’s firm conviction that the effect of today’s ruling truly favors both the interest of individual liberty and that of future generations. As to the conflicting legal principles at issue, it is true this Court’s favoring the equal rights of all citizens may place the judicial branch of the government briefly at odds with the legislative. That this may be so is not at all regrettable. Rather it is fully consistent with sound constitutional principle, with the wise structural design of our government and with the realities of the dynamic of healthy social progress.”

These statements, of course, are from the Honorable William L. Downing, who presided over the recent gay marriage case in Washington State. It would be very difficult to disagree with Judge Downing’s decision. I honestly can’t see any appellate court in the United States ruling otherwise.

©2004 Marcia Ellen "Happy" Beevre

# posted by Marcia Ellen @ 7:45 PM
i wonder if the california supreme court considered the effects of ruling this way on the 4,000 invalidated marriages. but you're right, this is not the victory the religious right thinks it is. it just paves the way for people to see that this is not about activism, this is about relationships and love. thanks for this post.
Thanks, Paul. I'm sure the court understood the pain they were inflicting, but they really knew there was no other way for them to rule in this case. It will not be long until they rule on the constitutionality of DOMA and that will be our day!! :)
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