Robin Sax: On August 4, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California's Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. Prop 8 was passed by Californians in November of 2008 and amended the state constitution to define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. Walker sided with opponents of the November 2008 decision, which excluded gays from marrying in California. In his ruling, Walker said that Proposition 8 violates the equal-protection clause by denying gays and lesbians the right to marry a member of the same sex.
The legal trajectory of same-sex marriage in California is very complex. In 2000, Proposition 22 (a.k.a. the "California Defense of Marriage Act") was passed; it added the following provision to the Family Code: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." In September of 2005, the California Assembly voted to make same-sex marriage legal, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, but Prop 8 subsequently invalidated that decision. But now, with Judge Walker's ruling, we're back to gay marriage being legal in California. Confused yet?
All of this legal repositioning makes me think we are headed to a U.S. Supreme Court case. Opponents of Prop 8 have vehemently argued (and I agree) that same-sex couples should enjoy the same rights, privileges and responsibilities of heterosexual couples. This is a clear-cut civil rights issue. I say, let same-sex couples suffer the hardships of marriage, too! Come on, people -- it's absolutely ridiculous to say marriage is a "sacred" tradition in America.
More than 55 percent of marriages in our country end in divorce these days (often, ugly and difficult divorce). Opponents of gay marriage say, "California's constitutional marriage amendment exists to strengthen society, encourage monogamous and loving marriages and provide the optimal environment to ensure the well-being of children." But how in the world does discriminating against a specific group make anyone's marriage stronger?!
California and many other U.S. states are so behind the rest of the world on this issue. Our neighbors, the Canadians, legalized same-sex marriage in July of 2005, and the practice is also approved in the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont have legalized marriage for same-sex couples, too. (So far, same-sex marriage is recognized but not performed in Maryland, New York and Rhode Island.)
As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Judge Walker is gay himself -- but that should have nothing to do with the ruling. As a lawyer, Walker represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a suit seeking to prohibit a group from using the term "Gay Olympics."
Pro-gay-marriage activists include Steve Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Levi's CEO John Anderson and many others. Some churches oppose same-sex marriage, yet some, such as the Unitarians and the Metropolitan Community Church, bless gay marriages and perform commitment ceremonies. The Catholic Church forbids it. But it shouldn't matter either way: Separation of church and state is a core tenet of the Constitution, and the issue of gay marriage is a Constitutional, not faith-based, one.
Some anti-gay-marriage activists talk about the effect gay marriage will have on kids. I can't understand their arguments whatsoever. In my view, preventing a loving (same-sex) couple from making a legal commitment to each other can only hurt their children. I have seen firsthand (and statistics also show) that same-sex couples raise wonderful kids who love their two moms or two dads just the same as any kids love their parents. As a prosecutor, I have seen many troubling family situations occur in heterosexual marriages: domestic violence, violent custody battles, abuse in the home and many other terrible circumstances.
I have never seen a situation wherein two loving people (of any gender) wanting to marry and make a life together could possibly hurt their kids. If all of the anti-gay-marriage activists would refocus their energy to help keep our kids truly safe (from sexual assault, abuse, abduction, domestic violence -- across our state and country), then we would truly be serving our children and the next generation. In many ways, same-sex couplehood reminds me of how converts from one religion to another treat the sanctity of their new religion. In my experience, it's usually the people who choose parenthood, overcome obstacles and work for their rights who end up being the most fit, involved and effective parents. Protecting the civil rights of all Americans also strengthens our families. I hope that Judge Walker's ruling has helped to resolve this issue once and for all ... but judging by the history of California, we are probably not quite done with it yet.
Whatever ends up happening in the future, the time has come for us all to accept that gay couples are couples. There are two-mom families, two-dad families and many other combos out there. Let's use this historic moment to embrace our differences and teach our children not to hate, but to accept!