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Gay Marriage redux - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2008-05-15 20:30
Gay Marriage redux
Public
feminism, gay marriage, politics
Everyone's posted about the great news from the California Supreme Court today. There are two things about the story that I haven't heard discussed much, though.

The first is that there is likely to be a proposition to amend the California constitution on the ballot next November to reverse this decision. Since the arguments overturning the decision were based on close readings of the California constitution, I've read that the case is very unlikely to go to the Supreme Court, but opposition groups have vowed to get the issue put on the ballot. I figure most of my (California-based, US citizen) friends are planning to vote anyway, but let this be another reason. Such a proposition will certainly bring more opponents wanting to overturn this decision out of the woodwork, and such a possibility worries me, both for the future of this decision and about the election results more generally.

The second is just an observation about the ahistorical hubris of the opposition's "this goes against the will of the people" argument. This assertion of theirs is based on the results of a 2000 proposition, put on the ballot in a very small election, to define marriage in the usual narrow and bigoted way -- and it passed. But even aside from this narrow definition of the "people" as those (relatively) few who turned out for that election, I hate this "will of the people" argument. It was equally "against the will of the [majority of] people" to do away with slavery, to integrate schools and public services in the 1950s, to allow interracial marriage, and to enforce equal rights in various other arenas, but that doesn't mean the will of the people is right, fair, or just. The same "separate but equal" arguments have been applied in separating "marriage" and "civil union" as were used to legalize (continued) segregation. The California Supreme Court rightly recognized the historical and logical flaws in this argument and ruled that the civil and legal institution of marriage, or whatever you want to call it, has to have not only the same rights and benefits but the same name for all.
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catachthonian
catachthonian
2008-05-16 05:27 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yeah, I was wondering how likely this decision is to be overturned. On the plus side, Arnold seems to be backing it.

I also wonder how much of this issue could be defused if we had better terminology to distinguish between religious and civil unions. Obviously, there are people who oppose the fact of gay marriage, but the presidential candidates seem to be betting that a lot of people only object to the phrase "gay marriage." Presumably, such objections would stem from the fact that "marriage" refers to a religious as well as a civil institution.

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torpeytude
sbtorpey
2008-05-16 14:28 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yeah, possibly the government should only recognize civil unions. Most people right now use ceremonies performed by religious officiants and have those recognized by the state, though, so it would be a pretty big switch.

First off, people who wanted religious ceremonies would have to do everything twice, like people do in Mexico. But many people at the moment probably just use religious officiants because it's easier — currently, in PA, for example, one can only use a government officiant in the government office, so no nice backyard wedding for the atheist who can't persuade a friend become a Universal Life minister online. So we'd probably need to change rules like that, and we'd also need a _lot_ more government officials to perform the civil unions.

It does seem really odd that the law can favor one religion over another when it comes to who can and can't get "married." The United Church of Christ (a mainline protestant church, I think, by most standards) actively supports the right of two men or two women to marry. The Roman Catholic Church (to my great shame) will not allow two such people to marry. The current law seems to unfairly favor one religion over the other.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2008-05-17 01:33 (UTC)
(no subject)
They were talking about how "marriage" (as a legal institution) might be renamed "civil marriage" as a result of this -- but for everybody.
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torpeytude
sbtorpey
2008-05-16 14:08 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yeah, I seem to remember being taught in American History class back in high school that the constitution and courts were supposed to help guard against "the tyranny of the majority." Were these guys cutting civics class to go smoke behind the gym, or are they just being disingenuous?
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Robynne
corpsefairy
2008-05-16 17:40 (UTC)
(no subject)
They're being disingenuous because it suits their purpose, same way it suits their purpose when it comes to arguing over "states' rights" - states have rights when they want them to, and not otherwise.
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John
surpheon
2008-05-16 15:15 (UTC)
(no subject)
It does seem odd that it takes a 2/3rds vote of the state legislature, but only a bare majority vote of the electorate to amend the constitution. Interestingly, if there are dueling amendments on the initiative ballot and they both get majorities, the one with the largest majority is explicitly declared the winner. So I wonder if some white-hat weasely wordsmith can get a trojan horse amendment on there that will approve same sex marriages but confuse enough of the anti-gay folks into voting for it that it overrides the proposition seeking to ban it. Call it the defense of marriage proposition, defending the right of all California citizens to marriage.

I do hate to be pragmatic, but I wish this ruling came after the presidential election in November (or, even better, last year some time). This is exactly the kind of red-meat issue the Republicans have been dying to find and I have little doubt they will use it nationally.
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John
surpheon
2008-05-16 15:17 (UTC)
(no subject)
Here's the amendment verbage:
"Article 18, SEC. 4. A proposed amendment or revision shall be submitted to the electors and if approved by a majority of votes thereon takes effect the day after the election unless the measure provides otherwise. If provisions of 2 or more measures approved at the same election conflict, those of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail."
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rubrick
rubrick
2008-05-16 19:51 (UTC)
(no subject)
I (and many many others) share your fears. On the other hand, if such an amendment (and the Right along with it) is soundly defeated, it will have a resounding impact. But in general, such raising of the stakes just stresses me out. I'm already depressed that the Presidential election looks as though it will be close. I just don't want to go through that again.
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