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Queer Talk: Marriage equality takes two steps forward

Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.

This week the earlier court ruling that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional was upheld by U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And in Washington, the state legislature passed “same-sex marriage” legislation. The governor will sign it on Valentine’s Day. Opponents of the Washington bill, soon to be law, say they’ll fight it through a referendum. And as has always been clear, whoever lost the Prop 8 case will appeal.

About Prop 8, via Bilerico, Karen Ocamb:

Freedom to marry advocates hailed the 2-1 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional as ‘huge’ and ‘historic.’ It is the first time a federal appeals court has ever ruled favorably for marriage equality, recognizing that the ban on gay marriage served no purpose than to ‘lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians’ and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. …

The ruling is limited to California, which, AFER attorneys Ted Olson and Ted Boutrous pointed out at a Feb. 7 news conference at the former Catholic Vibiana Cathedral, means there is a chance the US Supreme Court might not even take the case for review.

The narrow ruling was seen by some to mean the decision was “symbolic” (beyond California), while others saw the way the majority opinion is written as tailored for the Supreme Court, allowing them to avoid addressing the basic fairness and equality question of marriage for same-gender couples. But in general, the Prop 8 decision is seen as significant. From Ocamb:

… the ruling was strong. ‘Proposition 8 operates with no apparent purpose but to impose on gays and lesbians, through the public law, a majority’s private disapproval of them and their relationships,’ wrote Judge Stephen Reinhardt. ‘It is implausible to think that denying two men or two women the right to call themselves married could somehow bolster the stability of families headed by one man and one woman.’

Conservative Judge N. Randy Smith dissented, writing that, ‘The family structure of two committed biological parents — one man and one woman — is the optimal partnership for raising children.’

On August 16, the Court ordered a stay, in effect until February 28. That means, Ocamb writes, the proponents of Prop 8 have that long to appeal to the full 9th Circuit, and “have 90 days to file a petition with the Supreme Court.”

For more details and reactions, check below. The first is from the organization which took Prop 8 to court.

American Foundation for Equal Rights, U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Federal District Court Ruling That Proposition 8 Is Unconstitutional.

The Atlantic, The 8 Biggest Lessons From Yesterday’s Prop 8 Ruling.

Washington Post, Proposition 8 and the new religious reality.

Keen News, Prop 8 ruling: crafted to avoid Supreme Court review.

New Civil Rights Movement, Law, Unwrapped: Analysis Of Today’s Prop 8 Decision That Is True Genius”>/a>.

Bilerico, with a great round-up of articles and statements, Prop 8 Is Unconstitutional (Again) .

Washington will become the seventh state to provide marriage equality. Last week the state Senate approved the measure legalizing same gender marriage with a 28 — 21 vote, including four Republicans. On February 8, the House did the same, with a 55-43 vote, including two Republicans. Gov. Chris Gregoire has supported the bill, and announced she will sign it on Valentine’s Day. For more see:

Common Dreams, CNN, Freedom to Marry, and at Gay City News, Washington Marriage Bill Headed For Gov’s Signature … but advocates brace for November ballot question.

At this point, same gender couples can legally marry in six states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, and in the District of Columbia. Nine states provide couples with some level of recognition through either civil unions or domestic partnerships: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

In other states, this week a bill providing same gender couples the freedom to marry was introduced in the Illinois legislature. There are similar bills, with good chances of passing, in Maryland and New Jersey (the vote scheduled this coming week). In Maine, a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage will be on the November ballot.

On the other side of the marriage “issue,” constitutional amendments banning “gay marriage” have been approved by voters in 30 states. Both North Carolina and Minnesota will have such measures on their ballots.

In New Hampshire, a House committee has a bill pending which would repeal the same-sex marriage law, replacing it with civil unions.

And of course because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), there can be no federal recognition of the legal marriages in the states providing them. DOMA itself is being challenged. The Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, has been introduced in both U.S. Senate and House. Further, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders have filed two federal court cases challenging DOMA, expected to be heard at the Court of Appeals level, and then moving to the Supreme Court.

Obviously the Prop 8 and Washington state actions were good steps, which followed the many good steps of the past, and will lead to many more. One of those, from Robin McGee at Get Equal:

Next week, on Valentine’s Day, we’re organizing actions at marriage counters across the country — encouraging folks to apply for the marriage licenses that we’re entitled to — and we will continue to organize and take action until we are fully and finally equal in the eyes of the law. …

Let me be clear — marriage equality is not the end-all, be-all in the fight for LGBT equality. We all know that employment discrimination, immigration inequality, school bullying and so many other forms of legal and social discrimination continue to plague our community and need immediate, concrete solutions.

Every step forward is reason to celebrate. And reason to keep pushing.

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7 Responses to Queer Talk: Marriage equality takes two steps forward

  1. Cujo359 February 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Washington will become the seventh state to provide marriage equality.

    Once in a while, my adopted state makes me proud. This decision followed a referendum that was passed in 2009 approving gay “partnerships”. As you can see from the map in that link, there is quite a divide here between the progressive areas around Puget Sound and the more conservative interior of the state, but there’s always been a strain of political moderation here, and that appears to have not yet been broken.

    EDIT: IIRC, New York was the last state to pass such a law, also with some Republicans voting in favor. Under the circumstances, it seems amazing that California’s Prop. 8 is still being fought over in the courts.

    • Joyce Arnold February 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      It’s been a while, but I lived in Seattle for a couple of years, and even then, that “divide” between the Pudget Sound area and the conservative interior and east part of the state was clear. It’s like that in Tennessee and Texas, with areas of “blue,” usually surrounded by “red.” I know that same is true in other states, too. Anyway, the Republican votes were few, but at least there were some. February 14 should be a very good day to be gay in Washington.

  2. fangio February 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    1.  Judge N. Randy Smith  (  what a good ol’ boy name  ):  “  The family structure of two committed biological parents – man and woman – is the optimal partnership for raising a child. “  Is not that a classic example of a subjective opinion. I guess one would have to ignore all those children from broken homes,  who spend years recovering from the battles which ensued as a result of the  “  optimal partnership  “  of their parents.

    2.  If the Supreme Court does take the case it will be due to their inherent dislike of the Ninth circuit.  They rarely miss a chance to screw the judicial systems presumed liberally biased whipping boy.

    3.  Those considering a vote for Mr. Romney would do well to remember that the original success of Prop.8 was the result of an unprecedented influx of cash from the Mormon Church. The church is practically a corporation in it’s own right;  they own real estate and business all over the country.  They do not shy away from using their money to achieve their social and cultural goals.  Voters should keep this in mind if they plan to push the button for a Mormon presidential candidate. The lord will no doubt be with them,  whether they like it or not.

    • Joyce Arnold February 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      The opinion written by Smith is filled with stuff like that, straight out of the anti-homosexual agenda.

      I think there’s a good bit of concern about what the Supreme Court will do, which is one reason for all the wondering and speculation about the narrow ruling by the Ninth.

      “The lord will no doubt be with them, whether they like it or not.” — Okay, that one made me smile. Thanks :)

    • secularhumanizinevoluter February 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      “The church is practically a corporation in it’s own right;” Practically? PRACTICALLY?!!!!!! Bwahahahahahahaha!

  3. fairmindedindependent February 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Go Washington !! Awesome, lets hope more states follow, but as for the California decision, and it going to Supreme Court, I believe in my own personal opinion, is that it has to give equal rights to its citizens, which includes the state and federal benefits that come with marriage, but the marriage part is fuzzy to me, which way they will vote. You can’t have one state giving gay rights and the next no doing so, thats what happend in the south with interacial marriage and other civil rights. The constitution says life, liberty and persuit of happiness, not just for hetrosexuals but everyone. With more countries passing gay marriage, its just a matter of time. The United States is being passed up from countries like Canada, Argentina, Spain, South Africa, just to name a few that have given equal marriage rights to their gay citizens, I hope that his country will follow suit, because the United States is supposed to the the country thats stands for freedom, but sadly not all its citizens have equal rights that they deserve until the constitution. Nice Article Joyce, and keep up the great work !!

    • Joyce Arnold February 11, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

      As a nation, we’re definitely “being passed up” by other nations regarding marriage equality. We lagged behind regarding being able to serve in the military. We still don’t have federal employment protection rights, and it’s mostly on local levels that any protection is provided.



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