California | Gay Marriage | News

California Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Same-Sex Marriage


Opinion (PDF)

The California Supreme Court has overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a 4-3 decision. The opinion is lengthy, and I'm just getting through it, but here's an excerpt:

"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."

NewsomThe SF Chronicle reports: "The ruling set off a celebration at San Francisco City Hall. As the decision came down, out-of-breath staff members ran into the mayor's office where Gavin Newsom read the decision. Outside the city clerk's office, three opposite-sex couples were waiting at 10 a.m. for marriage certificates. City officials had prepared for a possible rush on certificates by same-sex couples, but hadn't yet changed the forms that ask couples to fill out the name of the 'bride' and 'groom.' Kenton Owayang, the office supervisor for the city clerk's office, said he's waiting for word from the state registrar's office about marriage forms and working on getting extra staff members in today in case the city is able to give out the certificates to same-sex couples."

Photos from the Courthouse steps...

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reacted to the ruling: " I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."

Ruling may reverberate in presidential race in favor of McCain...

Equality California to hold celebration rallies across the state...

And the portion of the opinion where they talk about why anything aside from the term "marriage" is unsatisfactory, AFTER THE JUMP...

"Under the strict scrutiny standard, unlike the rational basis standard, in order to demonstrate the constitutional validity of a challenged statutory classification the state must establish (1) that the state interest intended to be served by the differential treatment not only is a constitutionally legitimate interest, but is a compelling state interest, and (2) that the differential treatment not only is reasonably related to but is necessary to serve that compelling state interest. Applying this standard to the statutory classification here at issue, we conclude that the purpose underlying differential treatment of opposite-sex and same-sex couples embodied in California’s current marriage statutes — the interest in retaining the traditional and well-established definition of marriage — cannot properly be viewed as a compelling state interest for purposes of the equal protection clause, or as necessary to serve such an interest.

"A number of factors lead us to this conclusion. First, the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage clearly is not necessary in order to afford full protection to all of the rights and benefits that currently are enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples; permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage, because same-sex couples who choose to marry will be subject to the same obligations and duties that currently are imposed on married opposite-sex couples. Second, retaining the traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples. Third, because of the widespread disparagement that gay individuals historically have faced, it is all the more probable that excluding same-sex couples from the legal institution of marriage is likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationships are of lesser stature than the comparable relationships of opposite-sex couples. Finally, retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise — now emphatically rejected by this state — that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects “second-class citizens” who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional."

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  1. The tide is truly turning. A great, historic day.

    Posted by: theo | May 15, 2008 1:16:50 PM

  2. W00T!!

    Posted by: MikeinSanJose | May 15, 2008 1:17:23 PM

  3. This is fantastic! I've never been more proud to be a Californian! (Now, let's hope the wingnuts don't pass an amendment.)

    Posted by: peterparker | May 15, 2008 1:17:39 PM


    this is so amazing!!!

    Posted by: gabriel | May 15, 2008 1:18:03 PM

  5. Glorious.

    Simply glorious.

    Posted by: abdn | May 15, 2008 1:18:07 PM

  6. Hell yeah! This nearly brought tears to my eyes.

    Posted by: Tyler | May 15, 2008 1:19:20 PM

  7. Now the real work begins to educate and inform Americans.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't start running around like Chicken Little crying "the sky is falling!"

    This is an historic day and we MUST make the most of it. There will be A LOT of work to do in CA to vote down the amendment and we will need to educate voters in every state in the country, ESPECIALLY DEMOCRATS, that this is NOT the doom that they eronious saddled us with in 2004.

    God Bless the CA Supreme Court and God Bless California!

    Posted by: Zeke | May 15, 2008 1:20:51 PM

  8. Reading the opinion, I cried.

    It truly is civil rights all over again. The dissents sound just like the bastards demanding "separate but equal" in the 50s and 60s.

    Posted by: jeff | May 15, 2008 1:22:20 PM

  9. Crying a little right now. Woo - fucking - hoo!
    Wish it hadn't been 4-3, but still very very happy right now.

    Posted by: torrentprime | May 15, 2008 1:26:09 PM

  10. It happened because today is Andy's birthday!!! It can't be a coincidence!

    Posted by: Joe | May 15, 2008 1:27:18 PM

  11. Exciting times in deed. there is still a battle ahead, but now we can look straight into the horizon. Congratulations to all Californians, my we all cherish your triumph!

    Posted by: Rafael | May 15, 2008 1:30:49 PM

  12. Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaa


    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | May 15, 2008 1:30:59 PM

  13. Initial analysis from KCBS' legal analyst:

    The decision immediately legalizes same-sex marriage throughout California. Unlike in Massachusetts, the ruling took effect the moment it was read.

    The San Francisco and Los Angeles County Clerk's Office has announced that marriage commissioners and judges will begin marrying same-sex couples tomorrow.

    The UC Berkeley talking head also seems to imply that the 4,000 marriages nullfied in 2004 might be legal. Although he's not quite sure.

    Posted by: John | May 15, 2008 1:32:22 PM

  14. Thank you Justice George, Justice Kennard, Justice Werdegar and Justice Moreno!!! You have taken an important step toward helping millions of Californians achieve equality under the law!

    (And shame on you Justices Baxter, Chin and Corrigan! May your tenures be brief and unremarkable!)

    Posted by: peterparker | May 15, 2008 1:33:09 PM

  15. FUCK YEAH!!!!

    Posted by: Dakota | May 15, 2008 1:33:22 PM

  16. Now if I only had a boyfriend...just kidding.

    This is a rare burst of great news for our community and for the country as a whole!

    Everybody across the country should celebrate.

    Posted by: David | May 15, 2008 1:33:29 PM

  17. Congratulations California.

    Posted by: Landis | May 15, 2008 1:34:07 PM

  18. Damn Andy, for my birthday I got dinner out and tickets to the Lion King.

    You get a Marriage Equality ruling for the whole state of California!

    Somebody up there loves you!

    Can you spend your next Birthday in Florida?

    Posted by: Zeke | May 15, 2008 1:34:37 PM

  19. I read the decision and burst into tears. I've lived here for 15 years, been religiously married to my partner for 10 and felt, with those tears, what it meant to be considered 2nd class in this state. I am so grateful to all who worked so hard to bring us to this day.

    November will be hard. But today is a day for celebrating.

    Posted by: Rachel | May 15, 2008 1:36:11 PM

    Events going on tonight throughout the state!

    Posted by: alex | May 15, 2008 1:36:57 PM

  21. Huzzah!!! Way to go CA!

    Posted by: Dignan | May 15, 2008 1:40:15 PM

  22. Yay! I think its going to be an esp. great weekend here in San Francisco!

    Posted by: AdamN | May 15, 2008 1:46:47 PM

  23. The CA governor has just said he will uphold the Supreme Court ruling depsite the petition to amend the state constitution. My God! It took a Republican appointed state Supreme Court and a Republican governor to pass (and uphold) gay civil rights. Will this keep the issue local come November and innoculate Obama and Clinton from Karl Rove-like attacks?

    Posted by: Tom | May 15, 2008 1:48:12 PM

  24. Yes, truly a great birthday present. Last year, if you remember, Jerry Falwell bought the farm on May 15. Wonder what next year has in store?

    Posted by: andy | May 15, 2008 1:48:26 PM

  25. Thanks, Alex, for the link. I'll be at the celebration in San Francisco tonight throwing in a God Bless Gavin Newsom!

    NOW, despite this Ode to Joy from the California Supremes, the OTHER fat lady has not yet sung and YOUR dimes and dollars are needed to write the lyrics! Of course, I'm talking about the fact that a ban could STILL be burned into the California state constitution through the referendum being voted on in November.

    PLEASE contribute whatever you can through the Equality California link below. They are the lead organization, in alliance with virtually every other national gay group, organizing the voter education campaign to defeat this hate-filled ballot measure. As I wrote yesterday, research shows voters are virtually split on either side so we have a MAJOR chance to win. But the Mormons, the Catholics, Focus on the Family, Traditional Values Coaltion, and the Antigay Industry generally will be throwing even more millions against us than they already have. THANK YOU!

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | May 15, 2008 1:51:44 PM

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