The California Decision

The California Supreme Court decision is so amazing I couldn't resist sharing at least a little of it.

From a constitutional lawyer's standpoint, this decision is just about everything we could have hoped for. The Court rules-in general-that sexual orientation is not a legitimate reason to treat gay people differently. In lawyer's jargon, the court held that sexual orientation is a "suspect" classification, just like gender and race classifications.

The Court also holds that even though history is important in deciding what a fundamental constitutional right is, courts should not respect traditional restrictions on who got to exercise the right in the past.

The Court puts these rulings together and says that since the right to marry is fundamental, denying it to any group of people is highly suspect. Moreover, the Court says, since the law denies gay people the right to marry, this particular exclusion is highly suspect.

The Court then rejects the state's attempts to justify the exclusion, saying that tradition is not an important enough purpose. In a wonderful passage, the Court points out that excluding gay people from marriage is hardly necessary to preserve heterosexual marriage, since allowing same-sex couples to marry takes nothing away from anyone else. Amen.

Three things really set this opinion apart. (You can read it here.)

First, the Court's constitutional reasoning is absolutely first rate.

Second, the Court's writing is clear and accessible.

Finally, the Court realized it was writing not just for lawyers and other courts, but for the people and for history. I know I will never forget the moment when I read this passage near the start of the Court's opinion:

Furthermore, in contrast to earlier times, 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, and, more generally, that 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.

I went in to see Steve Shapiro, the ACLU's Legal Director, and I tried to read this to him. I fell apart. This, legally, politically and socially, is what we've been working to convince Americans of from the start of the LGBT rights movement.

This may not be the end of our battle. But this is a landmark.

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Anonymous

I am straight and planning to celebrate my 36th wedding anniversary soon. When I think of how many gays and lesbians have been denied this joy and how many of them, truly in love, have died of old age while society denied the validity of their love, words like terrible, awful,unspeakable come to mind. Still, they are merely words and words, as always, are insuffient. I can only hope that the California ruling will show the way to a better and freer future for all of us.

Anonymous

The Religious Right is saying that 'This is NOT what GOD wanted'.

Is NOT GOD OMNIPOTENT?

Then HE HAD THE JUDGES VOTE the way they did!

Anonymous

Thank you, Anonymous, for your words of support. I am a gay man who will be celebrating twenty-seven years of together-hood with my partner come August this year. We live in a state which does not recognize our relationship: Florida. This November, the ballot will have a measure against us which will adversely effect every couple in the state whether GLBT or not. This measure would take the state from a neutral position to one of willing negativity. We are a part of the Say No to Amendment 2 movement because we want to have the same civil rights, privileges, and protections which other American citizens carry with their civil marriage license. If only we had more voters and more elected representatives of your opinion in our state legislature. Again, Anonymous, thank you for your support!

Anonymous

More than 200 years ago, for his first Inaugural, Thomas Jefferson rote:
"Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal ights,
which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression."
What took our Courts so long?????

Anonymous

Matt,

How likely do you think it is that the federal courts will eventually declare SS marriage legal in the US under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution?

Anonymous

As a straight male, and a firm believer that I should'nt need approval of my goverment or any religion to have the right to visit my girlfriend/wife at the hospital or for her to inherit my house upon my demise, we decieded to register as domestic partners. I'm lucky that my wifes company (AT&T)and the county that I live in (Broward Fl.)recognise domestic partnerships.

Anonymous

Will this case be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court? How long will it take to get to the Supreme Court if/when it is appealed? If the Supreme Court upholds the California ruling will it overturn all the state actions to ban gay marriage effectively making gay marriage legal on a national scale?

Anonymous

The Catholic Church knows Water Boarding quite well, as that was one of there favorite methods of torture doing the Spanish Inquisition, They should ask the Pope what he thought about it for the Catholic Church invented it.

Anonymous

Opponents of the state's decision do plan to appeal, as I understand. I can only hope the court and its supporters stand firm and keep up the fight. This is a wonderful beginning!

Anonymous

There's nothing more American than "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Ironically, and sadly, Puritanism has also characterized American culture, even though the separation of church and state also helps to define America. LGBT Americans have been denied their basic civil liberties for far too long. Even the L-daughter of the Vice President has been denied these basic freedoms. What would VP Cheney have to say about this?

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