It’s A Win! California Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Same Sex Marriage!

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2008

snoopy_happy_dance5b15d.jpgMarriage equality has arrived in California (PDF: 469KB/172 pages):

…[W]e conclude that the purpose underlying differential treatment of opposite-sex and same-sex couples embodied in California’s current marriage statutes — the interest in retaining the traditional and well-established definition of marriage — cannot properly be viewed as a compelling state interest for purposes of the equal protection clause, or as necessary to serve such an interest.

A number of factors lead us to this conclusion. First, the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage clearly is not necessary in order to afford full protection to all of the rights and benefits that currently are enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples; permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage, because same-sex couples who choose to marry will be subject to the same obligations and duties that currently are imposed on married opposite-sex couples. Second, retaining the traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples. Third, because of the widespread disparagement that gay individuals historically have faced, it is all the more probable that excluding same-sex couples from the legal institution of marriage is likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationships are of lesser stature than the comparable relationships of opposite-sex couples. Finally, retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise — now emphatically rejected by this state — that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects “second-class citizens” who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.

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.

Update: The court’s decision was a 4-3 split. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has released the following statement:

I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling.  Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.

Ben in Oakland

May 15th, 2008



May 15th, 2008

It would have been better if this had come from the legislature. I know that the Governator has vetoed previous attempts but there always is the next one. I’m very concerned this will be overturned in November and gay rights will suffer a serious blow that will take years to overcome.

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008


Schwarzenegger has said from day one that he would support marriage if the courts did. He has also said that he would oppose the anti-gay marriage initiative.

TJ McFisty

May 15th, 2008

Taking my moment to appreciate this right now. Sigh…it’s a very good feeling!


May 15th, 2008

Jump sing and dance! WOOOOOHOOOOO!!

Excellent news! Of course, as has been commented already on other blogs, the anti-gay ultra-cons are going to make a big deal about the ‘activist judges’, and other such ridiculous bleatings.

I have a question for those anti-gays: Do you also believe that the ruling for the historic Loving vs. Virginia was also made by activist judges? After all, at least one of the dissenting opinions in that was from a supposed Christian viewpoint as well.

– Alex


May 15th, 2008

Wow! That’s terrific!

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s statement is even better.

Emily K

May 15th, 2008


An historic day indeed


May 15th, 2008

Do I sell the farm and move to California? Someone will have to teach me to surf.

What is next? My State will have to deal with recognizing Jim’s and Brad’s marriage if they move here? Something tells me ultimately it will be decided in the US Supreme Court…right? Then, it’s a matter of staving off amending the Constitution.

In any case, I want to hug someone…someone who understands my delight. Right now, I’ll settle for a virtual hug with BTB folk.

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008


big virtual hug


May 15th, 2008

Congratulations California!

For the rest of you that live in backwards states, consider moving to Canada. We’re very nice (and mostly liberal. Okay, maybe not so much in some parts of Alberta, but the rest is good.)

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2008

Backwards? That wasn’t very nice ;-)


May 15th, 2008

Sorry Jim… How about “less progressive states”?
or maybe “Sally Kernland”?


May 15th, 2008


I was just doing the Happy Dance around my apartment, and now my cats are looking at me like I’m crazy. ^_^


May 15th, 2008

Timothy: Good point. I had forgotten about the Governator saying this. Even so, I would have preferred this through the legislative process and remain concerned about November. That amendment has to be defeated. If it is, that would certainly give us a good response to those whining about thwarting the will of the people…

cowboy: Fortunately, as the socons have learned more than once the threshold to amend the US Constitution is very high and they don’t have that level of support for such a move. :-) 3/4’s of both Houses of Congress and 37 States, baby! Oh yeah, beat that nimrods!


May 15th, 2008

I predicted a while back that the CA Supreme Court would rule against lifting the ban. I’ve never been more thrilled to be wrong.


May 15th, 2008

Okay I have to ask this question. I’ve read all 172 pages of the ruling. A universal theme was not that California had to make gay marriage legal. It was that California could not have a two tiered system and that under the constitution there had to be universal access to whatever California called marriage. So if the amendment that is facing the November ballot passes and defines marriage a strictly heterosexual union without saying it is the only type of Union CA can grant, in light of this ruling wouldn’t you have a situation where CA cannot grant marriages?


May 15th, 2008

John: As I understand it — and giving the Governator a bit of the benefit of the doubt — part of the reason Arnold vetoed the previous Legislative bills was because they ran counter to the 2000 marriage initiative, and as a result, would have been subject to further court cases to determine their validity. (And as I understand it, under California law, voter initiatives can generally trump legislative bills.)

By waiting for the court case already in progress to play out, it has not only accomplished the same thing as the Legislative movement, it has also trumped the 2000 marriage initiative at the same time. So now the only thing left to worry about is the possible initiative on a Constitutional amendment — which is a big thing to worry about, yes, but here’s hoping.


May 15th, 2008

Hurray!!!! Hurray!!!! Hurray!!!!

I have been in happy tears since 10am this morning when I started reading the Court’s ruling! How joyous!!!

My partner of twelve years, and soon to be “Husband”, told me my eyes were severely bloodshot! Damn those tears of joy and jubilation!

Hurray!!!! Hurray!!!! Hurray!!!!

And so the Supreme Court of California has struck down Prop. 22 Remember that the Governor always stated that it was because of Prop. 22 that he claimed his hands were tied and so he was forced to veto both legislative attempts at legalizing same-sex marriage. No more Prop. 22, no more Governor veto!

Also, the following excerpt shows hope for our cause even if the Constitutional Amendment passes in November: “under this state’s Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process.”


May 15th, 2008

Whoo-hoo! I’m going to be a married woman soon.


May 22nd, 2008

As a straight woman who is totally pro-gay rights, I’m thrilled with the court’s ruling. I saw a t-shirt online a couple of months ago that said: “Equal Rights should be guaranteed – not voted on.” I can’t agree more. Discrimination is wrong. Whether it’s supported by a majority or a minority, it’s wrong. Whether it’s based in tradition or religion or ignorance, or any combination thereof, it’s wrong.

Would the proposed California Constitutional Amendment (if it even gets on the ballot) have to be passed by a 2/3 majority, or does it only have to be a simple majority? Anyone?


May 22nd, 2008

Never mind – finally found the answer. Amending California’s constitution requires only a simple majority (emphasis on the “simple”). Apparently wording in the proposed amendment rescinds protections in all segments of life — financial, property rights, rights to make medical decisions for partners, hospital visitation rights — all of it.

I really REALLY hope Californians are progressive enough to defeat the haters. I really really fear that they’re not.

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2008


While I oppose the proposed amendment, it would not rescind protections. It would add the following language to the constitution:

“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”

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