Thursday, May 15, 2008

California to permit same-sex marriages

California's Supreme Court took the very big, and very welcome, step of overruling state law forbidding the recognition of same-sex marriages. In In re Marriage Cases (PDF), Chief Justice Ronald George wrote:

In light of the fundamental nature of the substantive rights embodied in the right to marry — and their central importance to an individual’s opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society — the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all individuals and couples, without regard to their sexual orientation.


In sum, we conclude that statutes imposing differential treatment on the basis of sexual orientation should be viewed as constitutionally suspect under the California Constitution’s equal protection clause.

That gives laws mandating discriminatory treatment of same-sex relationships the same 86ing accorded laws against interracial marriages in 1948.

The San Francisco Chronicle warns that the historic decision "could be repudiated by the voters in November" if a ballot measure supported by 1.1 million petition signatures passes muster with the voters. But that's November. The Supreme Court decision goes into effect in 30 days. That leaves many months during which gay and lesbian couples can cheerfully bind their futures together as frighteningly optimistic straight couples long have. The fate of those unions would be up to the courts.

Will judges blithely annul such marriages the way they did the 4,000 performed in San Francisco in 2004? That's possible, but the earlier weddings were found to be illegal, while any ceremonies performed in light of today's ruling will be legal up until the voters put a stop to the practice.

My personal preference would be to take marriage out of the government sphere and make it an entirely private matter. So what if that leads to even more interesting permutations, such as plural marriage?

But so long as marriage requires a trip through the bureaucracy, the bureaucrats shouldn't discriminate.

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