Saturday, May 17, 2008

California Overturns Ban on Gay Marriage

In what some will call the most positive thing to come out of George W. Bush's Presidency (though having nothing to do with it himself), the California Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Coming after a 4-3 ruling, and years of debate and controversy, the court came to the conclusion that the state's constitution granted a natural "right to marry" to all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation. Though not without its own controversy, opposing groups are already working on getting an initiative attached to this November's ballot that will address the issue directly, amending the state's Constitution, and banning same-sex marriage in California once and for all.

"No matter how you stretch California's Constitution, you cannot find anywhere in its text, its history or tradition that now, after so many years, it magically protects what most societies condemn," said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, to the Los Angeles Times.

It would certainly be prudent to recall that not fifty years ago most societies condemned the equality of Blacks to Whites, and of women to men. Every injustice that has been overturned has carried its fair share of controversy and adversity. This is certainly no different.

"Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," Justice Ron George wrote for the majority. "An individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

And to those who would dare to strike at the liberality of the California Supreme Court, it should be noted that six of the seven justices are Republicans. Certainly if they can find enough cause and be open enough to change their views, others will see this as a good thing as well.

Even Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation aimed at legalizing gay marriage, has said "I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling."

The ruling, made on the 15th of this month, will be effective within 30 days. This gives same-sex couples wishing to marry through mid-June to make their arrangements. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the "decision a victory for California," stating that he would officiate as many same-sex marriages as possible.

The ruling allows all same-sex couples in California, as well as same-sex couples throughout the entire United States, the opportunity to be legally married. Though the decision grants same-sex couples in California the same full rights as heterosexual couples, it does not include all rights on the federal level, such as granting Social Security to a same-sex husband or wife. Similarly, states that do not allow gay marriage are not legally obligated to recognize the validity of its residents' new marriage.

Many believe this historic event will set a precedent for other states and, eventually, the federal government to make amendments defining marriage as not just between a man and a woman, but as between any consenting adult and another.

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