The California Supreme Court issued its long anticipated same sex marriage opinion this morning. I will try and provide analysis and commentary on the opinion, not only my own, but from other, more knowledgeable sources as well. The initial opinion is now out, and it appears, shockingly, that the California Supreme Court has struck down the same sex marriage ban in California. Here’s the money quote from the end of the opinion: (Read the full opinion here: same-sex-marriage-opinion)
Accordingly, in light of the conclusions we reach concerning the constitutional questions brought to us for resolution, we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union “between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In addition, because the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples imposed by section 308.5 can have no constitutionally permissible effect in light of the constitutional conclusions set forth in this opinion, that provision cannot stand.
Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court. Further, as the prevailing parties, plaintiffs are entitled to their costs.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed, and the matter is remanded to that court for further action consistent with this opinion.
The Los Angeles Times coverage is here:
SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.
The state high court’s ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, and the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.
The long-awaited court decision stemmed from San Francisco’s highly publicized same-sex weddings, which in 2004 helped spur a conservative backlash in a presidential election year and a national dialogue over gay rights. Several states have since passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Today, 27 states have such amendments.
After a month of jubilant same-sex weddings here, the California Supreme Court intervened and ordered the city to stop issuing licenses to gay couples. The court later invalidated the documents and declined to address the constitutionality of a state ban on same-sex marriage until lower courts acted first.
Today’s ruling by the Republican-dominated court affects more than 100,000 same-sex couples in the state, about a quarter of whom have children, according to U.S. census figures. It came after high courts in New York, Washington and New Jersey refused to extend marriage rights to gay couples. Only Massachusetts’ top court has ruled in favor of permitting gays to wed.
I beg to differ, the ruling affects many, many more than just the supposed 100,000 same-sex couples in California. It affects every married couple not only in California, but likely around the country, as the State Supreme Court, has just redefined thousands of years of marriage both in theory and in practice.
Before today’s ruling, gay rights lawyers predicted that a victory in the California Supreme Court would help them defeat the proposed constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, which the lawyers expect to qualify for the November ballot. A loss in the court would help the backers of the measure, they have said.
The California Supreme Court has six Republican appointees and one Democrat. Scholars have described the court under the leadership of Chief Justice Ronald M. George as cautious and moderately conservative.
Cautious and moderately conservative–wow–I would hate to see a reckless and activist court–though we just likely have.
MSNBC’s limited coverage is here:
SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court has overturned a ban on gay marriage, paving the way for California to become the second state where gay and lesbian residents can marry.
The justices released the 4-3 decision Thursday, saying that domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage in an opinion written by Chief Justice Ron George.
“Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest,” the court said in a majority decision.
“Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.”
Of course, we all need to read the actual opinion and then try to sort out the court’s analysis; but, I have to say, I am quite shocked at the court’s ruling this morning. I’ve only skimmed the dissents, it was a 4-3 decision, but, it’s clear from the dissents, I am not the only one shocked by this far reaching, sweeping opinion re-defining the entire institution of marriage. Once I have read the opinion, assuming I have time, I will try and post my further thoughts and analysis on the court’s legal basis, and reasoning.
A Soft Answer also has a short post up on the ruling.
For an understanding of the underlying judicial history on this case, please see my older post over at the Bloggernacle Times. It outlines how the case got to the appellate level, and also provides an analysis of the appellate court’s decision, which I think was well reasoned and the right conclusion. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your point of view) mine is not the ultimate voice on appellate law in California. That belongs to the California Supreme Court, and now they have spoken. It will be interesting to see how this will play out over the election season, as I understand there is a drive to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which would essentially throw out this particular decision. Frankly, its the only way I see a return to traditional marriage.
It will also be interesting to see the Church’s response, if any. You may recall the Church took an active stance in Proposition 22, back when, which dealt with strengthening traditional marriage in California. And, we know the Church took an active role in filing briefs in this California case for the California Supreme Court to consider in its analysis of the issues.
CNN’s coverage is now up at its website:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — In a much-anticipated ruling issued Thursday, the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. California’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Several gay and lesbian couples, along with the city of San Francisco and gay rights groups, sued to overturn state laws allowing only marriages between a man and a woman.
“There can be no doubt that extending the designation of marriage to same-sex couples, rather than denying it to all couples, is the equal protection remedy that is most consistent with our state’s general legislative policy and preference,” said the 120-page ruling.
It said that the state law’s language “limiting the designation of marriage to a ‘union between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.”
With the ruling, California becomes the second state to allow same-sex couples to legally wed. Massachusetts adopted the practice in 2004, and couples don’t need to be state residents to wed there.
At the end of CNN’S report, there is a line that says:
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely. The federal high court has never addressed the question of same-sex marriage
I disagree. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is actually unlikely. From what I have read, it appears that this case was decided on the basis of California’s Constitution. The analysis and constitutional standards applied were those of the State of California. I do not believe the California Supreme Court was deciding an issue of federal constitutional law, rather a state constitutional issue. On California state constitutional issues, it is the California Supreme Court which has the last say, not the United States Supreme Court.
Adam Greenwood has likewise posted over at Times and Seasons.
Gotta go make a living–but will try and post analysis of the opinion later this evening.