California Upholds Proposition 8, Preserves Existing Gay Marriages

Filed Under:Gay Rights, Supreme Court <!– Filed Under: –> <!– Filed Under:Gay Rights, Supreme Court –>

The California Supreme Court has rendered its decision on Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that passed on November’s ballot. The court upheld the ban on same-sex marriages, while also ruling to continue to recognize the 18,000 existing California same-sex marriages that occurred before the ban.

While the ruling is disappointing to proponents of marriage equality, the issue is far from settled. A new measure to overturn Prop 8 could find its way onto California ballots as early as 2010. According to a recent poll, 48% of Californians would vote to repeal Prop 8, versus 47% who would uphold it. 5% remain undecided.

A new ballot initiative during a mid-term election would be difficult to predict. The outcome would rest heavily on either side’s ability to mobilize and get out the vote.
The state of marriage equality in the US is very encouraging, despite the Prop 8 ruling. Five states currently allow same-sex marriages, and three other states are currently considering laws to legalize same-sex marriage. What’s exciting is that 3 of the 5 states to legalize gay marriage have done so in the past two months, and a 4th within 7 months.

The momentum is unmistakable. In October, Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage. On Election Day, the passage of Prop 8 and Arkansas’ adoption ban seemed like a huge setback, but then this spring, in rapid succession, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine legalized gay marriage as well.

New York Governor David Paterson introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in April, and the measure passed the state assembly overwhelmingly. While polling indicates that voters are evenly split on the question, the bill’s chance to pass the NY Senate are excellent.

New Jersey, which currently recognizes civil unions, is currently considering a law that would legalize gay marriage. A competing measure to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, meanwhile, has met with little support.

Last week, New Hampshire’s House surprisingly voted down a same-sex marriage law, but mainly because gay rights proponents felt the bill went too far in “protecting” religious and quasi-religious organizations’ rights to discriminate against gays. The Governor, Democrat John Lynch, had threatened to veto an earlier bill that did not include those “protections.”

Currently, while 10% of states have legalized same-sex marriage, several more have laws recognizing marriage-like rights. While the map below might not look that encouraging, the speed with which same-sex marriage has progressed is astonishing, and heartening.

While anti-gay marriage group NOM’s “Gay Thunderstorm” ad has been rightly derided, they certainly nailed the metaphor: Advances for same-sex marriage have occurred at a lightning pace. During the 2008 presidential campaign, opposition to gay marriage in favor of civil unions was the safe position for Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

As Bill Richardson said of gay marriage, “I will level with you, I would do what is achievable. What is achievable is full civil unions with full marriage rights.”

Scant months later, that position seems as quaint as an ice cream social, and gay marriage opponents like Rudy Giuliani are now taking cover behind that fall-back position. President Obama’s normally impeccable political instincts seem to have been outflanked this time, as his thread-the-needle position has quickly become obsolete.

On the bright side, the fact that these gains have been made with the President essentially on the sidelines is that much more encouraging.

Maine Governor John Baldacci’s remarks upon passage of his state’s same-sex marriage law offer Democrats, like President Obama, a road map from their old position to the new one:

“In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,” Baldacci said. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

Wow, that almost fits on a bumper sticker.// //

Tommy on: Daily Dose:

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