In a somewhat surprising ruling the California Supreme Court has upheld the people’s voice on Proposition 8. I say somewhat stunning because it is well documented the role of California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in being an activist court. I have simply come to expect the California courts to ignore the law in favor of making an activist statement. And to see a California court not be activist is somewhat shocking. As many of you know I am one of those odd birds who falls in the realm of fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I want to explain that better below because someone stated that this was an impossibility, although I don’t remember who it was. But the point of this article is that the California Supreme Court last week gave its verdict on the legality of Proposition 8.
First my defense of my position as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. The claim was that a person cannot be a fiscal conservative while at the same time being a social liberal. I disagree. The mistake, in my opinion, was to assume that being socially liberal means that you support the programs like welfare and such that really mean increased federal spending. That is not where I stand. I consider myself socially liberal because I stand with the liberal position on two of the biggest issues in politics today. I support gay couples having the same rights and liberties as straight couples. I also don’t feel that the issue of abortion is one that we have the right to legislate. However, I do not agree with welfare as it has been instituted by the government expansion crowd.
Now, saying that I support gay couples having the rights and liberties of straight couples, one might assume that I feel that the California Supreme Court got it wrong. Unfortunately for those that assumed so, I do not feel that way. The California decision was the correct one in my opinion. And I don’t think that the decision did anything to hurt the cause for gay rights or liberties. Here is how this issue has played out over the years in the California legal system.
California, in their 2000 primary election, passed Proposition 22 by a vote of 61% to 38%. Proposition 22 explicitly defines the union of a man and a woman as the only valid or recognizable form of marriage in the State of California. There were several subsequent attempts by the legislature in California to pass legislation allowing same sex marriage in California. The key here is that the legislature was continually attempting to usurp the will of the people of California, who as was mentioned, voted 61%-38% to define marriage in this way. As a stand-alone bill, these measures ultimately failed, so in 2005, the California legislature did what any legislative body does when a bill fails to pass muster in debate on the floor….
They tucked the bill into another bill so that it would be passed without people noticing it. The bill to legalize same sex marriage in California was tucked into a fisheries bill and was passed 21-15. The California State Assembly subsequently passed the measure with a vote of 41-35. The California legislature had effectively over-ruled the voice of the people of California. Governor “Terminator” vetoed the bill, stating that until Prop 22 was determined constitutionally sound or not, signing this bill wouldn’t happen because that ruling would render this bill either redundant or void, depending on the court’s ruling.
Meanwhile, in 2004, Gavin Newsome, mayor in San Francisco, decided that the city would begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, which was in direct opposition to the law in California, as noted above. About 4,000 licenses were issued in a one month period. Later that year, citing the mayor’s lack of authority to ignore state laws, the Supreme Court of California ruled that the marriages were void. Several lawsuits followed and they were combined into a single suit that was ruled on by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer. On March 14, 2005, Judge Kramer ruled that California statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples were unconstitutional. The court held there was no connection between forbidding same-sex marriage and legitimate state interest and the opposite-sex requirements impermissibly discriminated based on gender.
The First District Court of Appeals, in July, 2006, in a 2-to-1 decision, overturned the lower court. In offering their opinion, Justice William R. McGuiness stated, “The marriage statutes do not discriminate based on gender, and 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. In December 2006, the Supreme Court voted unanimously to review all six cases, and in May, 2008, the Supreme Court struck down California’s existing statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples in a 4-3 ruling, thus ruling Proposition 22 as unconstitutional.
And hence, Proposition 8 was sought. Proposition 8 is an amendment to the California constitution that literally changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marry, thereby overriding portions of the rulings in the above cases. On November 4, 2008, the citizens of California went to the polls and made their choice. By a vote of 52%-48%, Proposition 8 passed and gay marriage was banned in California through the addition of the constitutional amendment.
The resulting lawsuits were a foregone conclusion and were immediately filed. The California Supreme Court agreed to hear the cases and did so earlier this year. Their decision was announced last week. By a vote of 6-1, the court upheld Proposition 8. The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.” In other words, the court held that not having the right to be “married” was not a violation of equal rights or the equal protection clause because the rights and protections currently given to gay couples are provided for by other equal means.
I personally think that the court was correct in this decision. As I have said previously, I fully support gay couples having all the rights and protections that straight couples have. In this way, a civil union does the trick as best I can tell. The term marriage has no bearing on the rights or protections. It is merely a word, and one that the people of California have decided that they would like reserved for straight couples. I personally support the right of the people of any state to decide for themselves whether gay marriage is legal in their state. My biggest issue in all of this legal wrangling is that the legislative branch of California’s government and court activists have worked so hard to overturn the will of the people of the state, who have now twice spoken on this issue.
As for the opposition to the ruling, the usual overly dramatic response from gay rights activists have immediately ensued. Claims that gays are now considered 2nd class citizens and that the bigotry of Californians is now ensconced in the state Constitution were ringing out everywhere as protests are erupting in several major cities. To these claims, I throw bullshit flag. And I do so as a supporter of gay rights. The majority of the state’s citizens simply not allowing you the right to call your union a “marriage” does not make you a second class citizen or make them a bigot. As the court pointed out, you are still given every single right afforded to every other person of the state. You just aren’t allowed to use this one word to define it. Amazing how the activists feel that the use or not of one word in the english language is sufficient to claim second class status. In my opinion, so long as the civil liberties are not usurped and you are afforded equal protection, you are just like every other citizen. Time for the activists to simply deal with it. But we all know that is not going to happen.
So there is my opinion on the Court’s decision. But I open it for debate. Am I wrong on this issue. Does Proposition 8 somehow infringe on the civil rights of same sex couples? I understand that the majority does not have the right to infringe on the rights of the minority. The majority spoke. But did they infringe on the rights of the minority by passing this proposition?
I pulled pieces of information from roughly 16 different places in order to put together this brief history of the legal path of gay marriage in California. If anyone would like a properly formatted bibliography, I will put one together and send it to you. And not a single one of those sources was Fox News…. now am I objective? Or just a conservative mouthpiece with an agenda?