I’m all checked in to my hotel here in Garden Grove. The flight was uneventful, the rental car (a Mustang, natch) was ready, and it was an easy trip down the 405 to the Garden Grove freeway and the hotel. It’s my first time back to the Golden State since 1982, and so far, it looks pretty much the same.
But what news greeted me when I booted up the computer?
California Supreme Court overturns gay marriage ban
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.
The long-awaited court decision stemmed from San Francisco’s highly publicized same-sex weddings, which in 2004 helped spur a conservative backlash in a presidential election year and a national dialogue over gay rights.
Several states have since passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Today, 27 states have such amendments.
Today’s ruling by the Republican-dominated court affects more than 100,000 same-sex couples in the state, about a quarter of whom have children, according to U.S. census figures. It came after high courts in New York, Washington and New Jersey refused to extend marriage rights to gay couples. Before today, only Massachusetts’ top court has ruled in favor of permitting gays to wed.
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.”
Here’s the money quote from the ruling:
[W]e conclude that, under this state’s Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process. These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish — with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life — an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage. As past cases establish, the substantive right of two adults who share a loving relationship to join together to establish an officially recognized family of their own — and, if the couple chooses, to raise children within that family — constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons for the benefit of both the individual and society.
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. We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.
We’ve been saying that all along.
And the social conservatives and Religious Reich can eat a bug for all I care. We will have equal protection under the law. So go ahead and let them try to put their silly little amendment on the ballot in November; let them be exposed as the ignorant tight-ass bigots that they are twice in six months. I have no hope that the message will get through, but humiliation is good for the soul; assuming they have one.
Update: As expected, Glenn Greenwald has an excellent analysis of the decision, including a patient explanation of why this is ruling is not “judicial activism.”