originally, this was a comment on natalie’s post about the california supreme court ruling that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional. since then, i realized that a LOT of people either don’t understand what happened, or don’t really know what happened. most news articles i’ve seen don’t explain anything, and most people i know are too lazy to read the news. so i’m just going to re-work my comment so that it looks like a post instead of a response…
in california, a law becomes part of the statutes if it gets at least 51% of the popular vote, but should that be the case if the law obviously infringes on the state constitution? on may 15th, the california supreme court ruled, 4-3, that two pre-existing laws were unconstitutional and should never have even existed in the first place.
here’s what the judges looked at and struck down:
in 1977, the family code was enacted, which defined marriage as “a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman”.
however… it also said:
“A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state.”
OH NO! A LOOPHOLE!
so… one of the five men to fly an airplane in space, and the ONLY man to fly an airplane 4,520 miles per hour, old “pete” knight decided he’d stop up this hole in 2000 with his proposition 22. proposition 22 was litterally 14 words: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”. 61% of the people voted for it. (knight also had a gay son who had to have his marriage nullified because of this… )
what has happened between 2000 and today???
well… in 2004, the city and county of san francisco, as well as a bunch of other people, sued california to get rid of proposition 22. the san francisco superior court ruled it was unconstitutional to limit marriage to couples of the opposite sex. the state appealed.
then, in 2006, the first district court of appeal overturned the previous ruling, stating:
The marriage statutes do not discriminate based on gender; the state’s interests in “preserving the traditional definition of marriage” and “carrying out the expressed wishes of a majority of Californians” were sufficient to preserve the existing law.
then the supreme court took it up and blah blah blah.
while all this was going on, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, AB 849 was passed in 2005 by both the senate and state assembly, but was vetoed by schwarzenegger ONLY because prop 22 was now in the statutes. again, in 2006, the same thing happened. (AB 43) the governor ‘wrote in his veto statement that to solve the issue of gender-neutral marriage, the CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT needed to finish its rule on the challenge which had been made to Proposition 22′.
basically, both the legislature AND the governor wanted to pass the same-sex marriage bill, but couldn’t until the courts came to a final decision on the 2004 lawsuits that claimed proposition 22 was unconstitutional.
so, where we are now is that the supreme court finally ruled, declaring both laws unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, meaning you can’t discriminate based on race, sex, or religion, and on the basis that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right.
as for the judges, i don’t know if it’s fair to say that they were only acting on behalf of their morals. of course, for any human, it would be very hard to seperate your personal beliefs from the decision making process, and i’m sure religion, among other things, was a factor into how these judges voted. however, i feel that if you look at all of the info i’ve provided, it seems the judges most likely to be voting based more on ethics than the constitution would be the 3 who were against the ruling.
the only interests identified to justifying marriage only for heterosexual couples were “tradition” and “the will of the majority”. are these two things really more important than equal rights?
“as an historical matter in this state, marriage has always been restricted to a union between a man and a woman. tradition alone does not justify the denial of a fundamental constitutional right. Bans on interracial marriage were sanctioned by the state for many years.” -Chief Justice George
and in related news: