On May 15, the California Supreme Court decided that all Californians have the right to marry without regard to their sexual orientation. The court ruled: “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.”
The majority opinion also noted: “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.”
It was a joyous day for the GLBT community. In San Luis Obispo, we were joined by many of our straight friends at the county courthouse to celebrate the event. This was repeated in many cities throughout the state. We can now get married instead of domestic partnered, just like everyone else.
What does this mean to us? It means, in California, we are no longer second class citizens! It means same-sex couples can celebrate their love for and commitment to one another in the same way and to the same degree and with the same dignity as straight couples. It means our children can have the security of knowing their parents are just as committed and respected as any other parents.
Many Californians will take advantage of this new freedom and marry in the next few months. Since California has no residency requirement to marry, we can expect many gay couples from other states to visit here for the purpose of getting married as well.
It is important to note this is about the civil right to marry. It places no burden on any religious group or clergy. They are free to recognize or refuse to recognize marriages within their religions as they wish. Fortunately, there is a growing community of welcoming congregations and clergy that do recognize same-sex couples, and do support our quest for equality.
Referencing the decision, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released the following statement: “I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. 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.” He should be applauded for his clear and supportive statement.
An attempt to amend the state Constitution is being made by right-wing extremists. They appear to have gathered enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot that would prohibit same-sex marriages. This would trump the court’s decision. These extremists are committed to spending many millions of dollars trying to convince Californians to take a step backward, to reinstate discrimination, to deny us the equal protection and benefits of the law that they take for granted for themselves. We are overjoyed with the court’s decision but we are very concerned about this attempt to nullify it. We hope our fellow citizens will join us in recognizing the fairness of the decision and the need to move forward, not backward.
Lorelei Monet is the center coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of San Luis Obispo. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.