May 19, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage Legal in California!

On May 15th, after four years of litigation and many decades of discrimination, California became the second
U.S. state to provide full marriage equality for all of its citizens. Starting June 14, same-sex couples all over California will begin tying the matrimonial knot and celebrating a new summer of love.

In a 4-3 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled on the case challenging the state's marriage statutes, concluding that "in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples."

The Court's 120-page opinion -- click here for a press release boiling it down -- analyzes California Family Code Section 308.5 (also known as Prop. 22, or the Knight Initiative) which states that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California; reviews the history and scope of the constitutional right to marry in California; and addresses the equal protection issues raised by the limitation of the word "marriage" to opposite-sex couples.

About time! But despite this great victory for same-sex families, there is no rest for the weary. As the New York Times reports, right-wing groups are working to qualify a ballot measure for the November election that would enshrine marriage discrimination in the California Constitution by way of a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. According to SFGate.com, "The constitutional amendment will qualify for the November ballot if officials determine that at least 694,354 of the [1.1 million signatures gathered] are valid, a decision due by mid-June." If passed, the measure would nullify last week's Supreme Court decision and eliminate marriage equality.

The answers to many common questions about what marriage equality means can be found here, at the website of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the lead counsel on the marriage cases.