The California Supreme Court decided today that same-sex couples should be permitted to wed, ruling that gay unions must be given the "respect and dignity" of marriage.
In a 4-3 vote, the court became the first in the country to apply the constitutional protections reserved for race and gender to sexual orientation. The Massachusetts high court struck down bans on same-sex marriage in 2003, but under a different legal theory.
The court held that people have a fundamental right to marry the person of their choice and struck down marriage laws limiting matrimony to opposite-sex couples as a violation of the state constitution's equal protection guarantees.
"One of the core elements embodied in the state constitutional right to marry is the right of an individual and a couple to have their own official family relationship accorded respect and dignity equal to that accorded the family relationships of other couples," wrote Chief Justice Ronald M. George, joined by Justices Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Carlos Moreno.
State laws that have limited gay unions to domestic partnerships "impinge upon the fundamental interests of same-sex couples," George wrote.
The question, as Stace puts it, is whether this restores gays to the spot of #1 target for Republican candidates, or if immigrants remain in place as the new gays, politically speaking. Personally, I think the message of the special Congressional elections this year is that the voters aren't paying a whole lot of attention to this kind of campaigning - bigger issues, like the war and the economy and the price of food and gas, are higher priorities in their minds. Have the Republicans learned that lesson, or will they lean on old familiar ways? I wouldn't put it past them, that's all I know.
Statement of Paul Scott, Equality Texas Executive Director
Today's decision in California is a victory for all Americans who cherish fairness, due process, and equal protection under the law. The Court rejected the State's argument that domestic partnership law was an equal substitute, noting that marriage-like rights without marriage smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts: separate but equal.
While Texans are legally unaffected by this ruling, we are hopeful that same-sex couples in Texas will one day have the same opportunity to solidify and legally protect their families.
According to a January, 2008 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, approximately 50,000 same-sex couples were living in Texas in 2005. About 20% of these couples are raising an estimated 17,444 children. They deserve the same opportunity to legally protect their family relationships as all California couples now have.
Equality Texas will continue its ongoing efforts to help build strong Texas families, including those with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family members.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 15, 2008 to National news
Earlier today, the California Supreme Court handed down a historic decision upholding the freedom to marry in In Re: Marriage Cases. The second state high court to rule in favor of ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage said, "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 [marriage] to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples."
"This righteous decision of this most respected state high court will give Americans the chance to experience what they've begun to see for the last few years in Massachusetts, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands - the lived reality that ending exclusion from marriage helps families and harms no one," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. "California's sun will illuminate the nation."
The milestone California ruling comes as the country marks the 60th anniversary of another historic ruling, Perez v. Sharp. In Perez, the California Supreme Court became the first court in the country to strike down race restrictions on marriage, also by a vote of 4-3, at a time when polls showed 90% opposing interracial marriage. Wolfson noted, "Today, the justices of the California Supreme Court again lived up to their oath to uphold the Constitution for all, and as with their courageous past stands against discrimination in marriage, we will all be the better and history will vindicate them."
Noting that opponents of equality have submitted signatures that may trigger a November vote on an anti-gay measure aimed at amending the state constitution to bar committed same-sex couples from the equal freedom to marry, Wolfson said, "Thanks to the Court's just decision, voters will get to make an informed decision, having the chance to see actual married couples and realize it is wrong to put obstacles in their path."
Freedom to Marry salutes the leadership of National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, Heller Ehrman LLP and the Law Office of David C. Codell, and the City of San Francisco, who represented fifteen same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition in this case.