As many New England states and Iowa (for pete’s sake) move to approve marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, the state that has been the trendsetter for equality has taken a giant step back as the state Supreme Court upheld the discriminatory Prop 8 outlawing marriage equality:
California’s highest court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages Tuesday but allowed about 18,000 unions performed before the ban to remain valid.
Supporters of the November ballot initiative Proposition 8 hailed the ruling, but about 1,000 advocates of same-sex marriages who gathered outside the court building in San Francisco met the 6-1 decision with chants of “Shame on you.”
“It’s nice that my marriage is still intact, but that’s not the point,” said Kathleen White, who married her partner in 2008. “The point is that everybody should have the same civil rights across the board.”
The protests – and arrests – are beginning around the country, including San Francisco. Join the Impact is asking those around the country to hold their own peaceful rallies to protest the ruling – and can provide free resources.
What this decision does is point up the inherent danger in California’s ballot initiative law. Basically, it means that any group can get enough signatures, tell enough lies about their opposition and impose their will on the rest of the population – and courts cannot overrule them. The South would have loved to have ballot initiatives when the Supreme Court was forcing integration and the suspension of Jim Crow laws. California Justice Ronald George had even acknowledged at one point that the ballot system could repeal free speech if they had enough votes. So, instead of living out the courts original ruling that Prop 22 – which outlawed marriage equality – was unconstitutional – it backed off, split the baby and pleased exactly no one and did justice for exactly no one. A point not missed by a dissenting justice:
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Carlos Moreno wrote that the measure “violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning.”
“The majority’s holding is not just a defeat for same-sex couples, but for any minority group that seeks the protection of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution,” wrote Moreno, the court’s only Democratic appointee.
The courts are supposed to help protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. The California Supremes have not just failed gay and lesbian Americans, but have betrayed one of America’s greatest values at the same time.
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.