Separate but Equal – Is It Possible? What Will the California Supreme Court Decide?

4 03 2008

Looking through Google News this morning, I found the story that I was looking for. There, in the U.S. section, between a story highlighting the severe thunderstorms in the Southeast and one about the investigation about a Marine allegedly throwing a puppy off of a cliff, was the headline “State Supreme Court takes up same sex marriage.”

I had known that today, March 4, 2008, the California Supreme Court would hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage in the state. The first article that I read was from the San Francisco Chronicle. It outlined some of the questions that the Justices had for lawyers involved in the case. In some instances, it almost appeared as though the Supreme Court Justices wanted to find a way to make a decision; asking questions like “Could the State simply abolish marriage as a legal definition and leave it as a religious institution?” and “Aren’t the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners and marriage partners substantially the same?”

According to the Chronicle article, San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart stated, “This case is not about whether the domestic partnership laws are fair or equal, but whether to denying marriage to lesbians and gays is equal.” (Well said!) The article also highlighted that many parallels were drawn by attorneys to the 1948 decision by the California Supreme Court to strike down the ban on interracial marriage.

Next, I read an Associated Press article, which covered some of the same background as the Chronicle article, but added some other information. This article discussed arguments that “the people of California” (aka – the slim majority of voters who actually voted in the March 2000 election) voted to define marriage as act “between one man and one women.” The article further discussed how a trial court judge overturned that law, but that decision was later overturned by an appeals court.

The AP article offered this update on same-sex marriage legal battles across the country: “Since these California cases were filed, the top courts in six other states have been asked to legalize same-sex marriage. New Jersey’s top court gave lawmakers the option of adopting civil unions as an alternative and a ruling is pending in Connecticut, but none of the other courts was persuaded.”

What’s Next

The California Supreme Court has 90 days to make a decision. With the largest percentage of gay and lesbian citizens, California has had a history of setting precedents for GLBT legislation. Because of this, members of the GLBT community in California are not the only ones who will be waiting for this decision. The entire country will be waiting on the decision from the California Supreme Court.

Personal Note

On a personal note, in July 2003, my partner and I had a commitment ceremony. We proclaimed our love to one another before family and friends. We registered as domestic partners with the State of California. Although I consider the rings that we exchanged as our wedding rings, these rings are not the “typical” solid bands. I have always wanted one of those bands and my partner and I agreed that we would make each other solid wedding bands either at our fifth anniversary or when marriage became legal. It looks like there is a chance that this summer, both events may happen.

Message from Equality California

UPDATE (just prior to posting) – When I arrived home this evening, my inbox had an email from Geoff Kors, the Executive Director of Equality California. Here is an excerpt:

“I am writing to you from the California Supreme Court, where I just had the privilege and honor of witnessing history in the making.

“For the past three hours, the highest court in the most populous state in the nation engaged in a spirited discussion. Our lawyers debated with those who oppose our equality about whether we should or should not be afforded the same rights, obligations and dignity that heterosexual individuals have.

“Equality California , and each of you as our members, was brilliantly represented by Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. I cannot put in words how fortunate we are to have such amazing legal counsel, including attorneys from NCLR, ACLU, Lambda Legal, Heller Ehrman, LLC and the Law Office of David Codell. Shannon argued passionately and persuasively, as did Therese Stewart with the City of San Francisco and the other attorneys representing our community.

“Shannon and Therese eloquently made the case that domestic partnership is not equal to marriage and does not conform to the California Constitution’s mandate of equality.

“The State tried to argue that this inferior, separate and unequal status is somehow sufficient, that providing us with less-than equality was somehow actually equality, and that discrimination could be justified by tradition. Then, the right wing, anti-LGBT organizations did their usual hateful and mean-spirited song and dance, arguing against all evidence that we are inferior parents and should be denied our rights. Shannon and Terry did a terrific job rebutting the arguments of the State of California and the right-wing groups.”

For more information, visit Equality California’s website.



One response

4 03 2008
Separate but Equal - Is It Possible? What Will the California … | Equals More

[…] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAccording to the Chronicle article, San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart stated, “This case is not about whether the domestic partnership laws are fair or equal, but whether to denying marriage to lesbians and gays … […]

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