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California’s Same-Sex Marriage Author

Jim Burroway

May 19th, 2008

Chief Justice Ronald M. George is an unlikely figure to write such a thoroughly pro-gay opinion as the one released last Wednesday that brought marriage equality. The 68-year-old moderate Republican appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson surprised Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “His change from where I thought he would be is baffling,” Staver told the Los Angeles Times yesterday. Nobody expected such a sweeping decision to go even beyond the arguments of same-sex marriage:

The court was poised 4 to 3 not only to legalize same-sex marriage but also to extend to sexual orientation the same broad protections against bias previously saved for race, gender and religion. The decision went further than any other state high court’s and would stun legal scholars, who have long characterized George and his court as cautious and middle of the road.

But as he read the legal arguments, the 68-year-old moderate Republican was drawn by memory to a long ago trip he made with his European immigrant parents through the American South. There, the signs warning “No Negro” or “No colored” left “quite an indelible impression on me,” he recalled in a wide-ranging interview Friday.

“I think,” he concluded, “there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe.”

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