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LA TIMES EDITORIAL - "MARRIAGE RIGHTS FOR ALL"


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Marriage rights for all

Gays and lesbians win the backing of the state Supreme Court. Will voters go along?

May 16, 2008

 

'Marriage," the U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than 40 years ago, "is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival." And yet that right has been routinely denied to American men and women based on their sexual orientation. Government, which at its best acts to protect and extend the rights of its citizens, instead has long stood as an impediment to gay men and lesbians who just want to marry the one they love.

 

When it acted in 1967, the court banished laws that forbade interracial marriage and legalized the union of Mildred Loving, a black woman, and her white husband. In that same noble tradition, California's high court on Thursday ended the state's ban on marriages between couples of the same sex. Marriage, the court ruled, is "one of the fundamental rights embodied in the California Constitution" and may not be sublimated to bigotry or habit.

 

With its elaborate, careful ruling, the court cut neatly through the argument that gay and lesbian couples already enjoy the equal protection required by the state Constitution through civil unions that carry virtually the same rights. The very creation of a separate-but-nearly-equal category draws a distinction between marriage and civil unions, implying a lesser status for the latter, Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote. Preserving marriage as an exclusive category, he wrote, "is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples."

 

Far from evincing judicial activism, the ruling titled simply "In re Marriage Cases" acknowledgedboth legal and home truths. Tradition often stands as an obstacle to eliminating discriminatory institutions. But the court recognized that rights must supersede customs, that just because marriage traditionally has been defined as a union between a man and a woman, it cannot be denied to same-sex couples by "tradition alone."

 

Those offended by gay marriage already are working for a measure that would let California voters consider a constitutional amendment to ban it -- and, in the process, overturn this ruling. The measure is planned for the November ballot. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he would oppose a ban, and his leadership on this matter is warmly welcomed. Public opinion has changed in this state since Proposition 22 prohibited same-sex marriage in 2000, and it continues to evolve toward acceptance of gay and lesbian rights. Thursday's ruling is another step in that march toward equality; voters would do well to revel in this historic moment and let this decision stand.

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Guest zipperzone

One of the problems I see with putting this on the ballot in November is that those rabidly opposed will make a determined effort to turn out and vote no. Others, who have no objection to it and would vote yes, may not have the same zeal to make sure they vote. This could cause a "no" vote to take the day without it really being the wishes of the majority.

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Guest PotatoHead

But, the nice thing about having it on November's ballot will be that, at least, it will be the time when there is the most voter turnout.

 

I think you're right - in a primary or lesser election or an election of less importance, we would be hurt because those vehemently opposed to it would turn out much more strongly than those moderately in favor. I think, though, that in a general election with a hotly-contested Presidential race on the ticket, voters on both sides of the issue are more likely to turn out and this might be our best chance to completely block them and their amendment.

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The last poll numbers I saw said they had less than 50% support for the ban, so even if they get 100% turnout they still can't pass it. At this point it's a publicity ploy by the organizations that want their sheeple to keep paying their membership dues.

 

Gavin Newsome's marriage-fest a while back put real faces on the issue, and support for the ban dropped like a rock. It will drop again once marriages start state-wide and those pictures make the news.

 

Either way, I expect voter turnout to be quite high indeed, across the board, if the primary was any indication. And gay marriage won't be the big issue. ;-)

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Guest zipperzone

deej: It will be great if you are right - and I hope you are. High profile marriages like Ellen D. will probably help.

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