On One Hand

May 15, 2008

California Court Reverses Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:04 pm

The California State Supreme Court just overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, making California the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriage.

Those defending California’s same-sex marriage ban argued that since California already gives same-sex couples some benefits, the fact that they coudln’t get legally married was not discrimination. The 4-3 decision agreed with gay rights groups who argued that calling same-sex unions something other than marriage is akin to second-class status, and is not permitted by the state’s constitution.

Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would uphold the court’s ruling, and will also oppose a ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to reverse the ban. The ballot initiative will likely get enough signatures to appear on the ballot this November for all Californians to vote on it.

My guess is that the ballot initiative will fail, because a similar initiative in Arizona failed in 2006 in a state that is culturally similar but on balance more conservative than California.

California is the most populous state in the United States with about twelve percent of the United States population. Cities in California are magnets for GLBT people from around the country who are seeking a more tolerant cultural environment, so I would guess that something around 1 in 5 American same-sex couples live in the state and will be allowed to marry because of the California court decision.

But same-sex marriage is often a campaign talking-point for Republicans, some of whom have visceral responses to gay marriage and surge to the polls in droves to vote on same-sex marriage ballot initiatives. This is extremely unlikely to overturn Obama’s lead in California, where he is polling against John McCain by double-digits, but the enthusiasm may ripple out to surrounding Oregon and Nevada, two crucial swing states, and culturally-conservative Ohio and Virginia across the country. It is still to be seen whether or not the timing of this court decision will result in a bounce for John McCain against Barack Obama nationwide, or if various Senate or House races will be effected by this news.


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