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.
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:
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.