The May 15 California Supreme Court ruling was a victory for same-sex couples all over the nation. This case marks one more step in the fight for civil rights in our country. Chief Justice Ronald George wrote the court’s decision in Lockyer v. City and County of San Francisco.
The court concluded that “our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”
The phrase “like a person’s race” is a reference to the California Supreme Court’s decision in 1948’s Perez v. Sharp. This landmark case found that California’s prohibition on interracial marriages was unconstitutional. George used this example to show that even a law that existed since the formation of the state of California is not immune to a Supreme Court ruling of unconstitutionality. According to the Redding Record Searchlight, George said, “I think there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe.”
George grew up seeing the discriminatory Jim Crow laws and the fight for racial equality in action. Following U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren in Brown v. Board of Education, George cast the deciding vote for equality. According to the Los Angeles Times, when Warren made his decision in 1954, “Jim Crow was an entrenched system in the South and a de-facto reality in much of the North. … Two successful presidents would have to call on federal troops to give his ruling legal force.”
The tension over gay marriage is similar, although perhaps not as extreme. In both cases, there was significant resistance to anti-discrimination laws because of a deeply-rooted value system in which some individuals were seen as secondary. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of California stated that refusing the title of a “marriage” to a couple based on sexual orientation would mean treating homosexual individuals as “second-class citizens.”
Interestingly enough, there exists a petition with one million signatures to amend the California Constitution to include a ban on gay marriage. According to the LA Times, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he “will not support an amendment to the constitution that will overturn” the Supreme Court ruling. John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all agree on this issue. Although they are not personally in favor of same-sex marriage, they believe that the decision should be left to the states.
Of course, this raises many conservative religious concerns. However, the court examined both sides of the argument on same-sex marriages and concluded that the “traditional definition of marriage” as between a man and a woman may seem morally right to some, but it remains unconstitutional because it is discriminatory to deny certain rights to same-sex couples. With regard to religion, although the Bible apparently condemns homosexuality, and although some people believe that they can deny equal rights to people they believe are “sinners,” if legislation is passed and enforced – like it was for equal racial rights – then people will soon see that denying the rights of homosexuals is also discriminatory.
According to the LA Times, there is a generational division on the issue. Those under 45 are more likely to support the Supreme Court decision and less likely to believe that same-sex relationships threaten “traditional marriage.” This is extremely valuable information for those of us who want to fight for this new civil rights movement for gay rights and gay equality. It means that students have the ability to make a difference and not allow the government to take away the rights of our neighbors.
UC Irvine student Floyd Tran, an Associated Students of UCI Student Services chief of staff and Lesbian, Gay. Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center intern, said, “Personally, I’m ecstatic that I’m able to get married now. … I feel like I should have the same rights as everyone else. This is a matter of equality. It’s about civil rights, about being the same thing no matter who you are or what you believe in.”
Kris Potts, a fourth-year criminology, law and society and cognitive psychology double-major and LGBT Resource Center ally, said, “I’m happy [the case] passed in California. I think anyone deserves the right to happiness in marriage, no matter the sex. I just hope the rest of the [United States] sees this is right.”
Despite such feelings, there is a chance that a bill to amend the California Constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriages will show up on the ballot in November. All we can do is get out and vote to ensure that our fellow citizens have the equality and rights they deserve.
Resham Parikh is a first-year international studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion