California Supreme Court Overturns Ban On Same-Sex Marriage genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

I realize I should be excited about the California Supreme Court's decision to remove the ban on same-sex marriage ...but the pragmatist in me simply won't allow it. I'll explain my thinking after the following excerpt on today's ruling.

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.

The state high court's 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.

Schwarzenegger, who has vetoed two measures that would have authorized same-sex marriage, today said he would abide by the court's ruling.

"I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling," he said in a statement. "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."

But as early as November, voters could be asked to render their opinion on an amendment that would again attempt to ban same-sex marriage.

A coalition of religious and conservative activists has submitted 1.1 million signatures to qualify the amendment, which would say that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Andrew Pugno, an attorney for the initiative's sponsors, said the Supreme Court decision is a boost for the measure because opponents have been saying there is no real threat that same sex marriages will happen.

"This decision draws a line in the sand and makes it clear that this is the last chance for voters to have a say," Pugno said. "This is proof positive for voters that the courts are out of control and the voters have to step up."

First, the timing of this ruling isn't advantageous. As we approach a critical election in which the Democrats are poised to take the presidency as well as additional seats in the house and the senate, giving the rabid right wing an issue to rally around is apt to boost the GOP's fundraising, motivate evangelicals to get out and vote, allow John McCain to exploit the differences between the GOP and the Democratic Party with regards to same-sex issues (including forcing the Democratic nominee to clarify his or her position on the ruling and same-sex marriage), and give supporters of an amendment to add a ban on same-sex marriage to the California constitution ample ammunition to fund and promote their ballot measure (every right wing organization is going to pour money into this ballot initiative).

Secondly, I believe that the mood of voters had changed since the 2004 election. That change included less of an emphasis on values driven politics and more of a focus on issues that endear voters to the Democratic Party. Today's ruling may return us to the days of God, guns, and gays...with a particular emphasis on gays. Should that happen, it would allow the detractors of the Democratic party to reemphasize the fact that they are generally in favor of extending more rights to gays, accepting of court rulings that expand rights even if the voters wouldn't vote to approve them, and in favor of appointing more judges with similar views.

Let's look at the chronology to better understand the shift that took place since 2004 and the likelihood that this ruling could facilitate a step backwards in terms of renewed voter resistance. Following on the heels of Massachusetts allowing gay marriage as a result of a 2003 court ruling, in February of 2004, San Francisco and other municipalities began issuing marriage licenses to gays. While all of these actions felt empowering and led to numerous celebratory moments, it was short lived (except in Massachusetts) and likely assisted in the passage of amendments to ban same-sex marriage in eleven states.

Following the 2004 election, Iraq, the economy, and other issues pushed the values agenda to the back burner as voters focused on other concerns. The outcome of the 2006 election supports that contention. As we've approached the 2008 election, the general perception has been that God, guns, and gays had fallen into disfavor with voters (or at least been overtaken by other priorities) and would not play a significant part in this election cycle.

If one believes that history repeats itself...and that the U.S. has a history of vacillating between left and right (in a manner reminiscent of a pendulum) when it comes to issue of morality...this ruling could create the momentum needed to effect a shift to the right...or at the very least a halt to the current swing leftward. While these back and forth swings seem inevitable, the timing of this ruling may be the accelerant that sets in motion the unfavorable shifts noted above...sooner than they would have otherwise occurred. That would be a classic example of an unintended consequence...but an unwelcome and unfortunate one no less.

Look, I also believe that the affording of rights can't always be scheduled for maximum advantage...nor should they be delayed accordingly. History will undoubtedly view this ruling as one of the important steps in the chronology of granting gays equal status. Nonetheless, the journey between now and then may well include events that (similar to this ruling), at the time they occur, seem to be a step forward but that ultimately precipitate a temporary step backwards. As such, the soldiers need to be prepared for the times when retreat and retrenchment are the order of the day.

Today is a time for celebrating...but tomorrow may be another story. It is imperative that we remain vigilantly mindful of the impact our actions will have on the ever shifting political terrain. This means that it is essential for us to be aware of the positions each of the combatants holds on the battlefield. In the end, regardless of the victories and defeats, the march towards equality must never cease. Today we've won a battle...tomorrow the war proceeds.

Tagged as: California, DOMA, Equality, Gay, LGBT, Marriage, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court

Daniel DiRito | May 15, 2008 | 11:53 AM
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The march towards equality for gays took a step forward today with the ruling by the California Supreme Court. While this is a day for celebration, there may well be setbacks should an amendment banning same-sex marriage pass in November. The battle is... [Read More]

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