BY SUSAN FERRIS and CYNTHIA HUBERT
The California Supreme Court ruled today that voters’ ban on gay marriages should prevail, but allowed to stand marriages that occurred in the brief window before the vote was taken.
Proposition 8 passed last Nov. 4 with about 52 percent of the vote. It changes California’s constitution with a simple declaration that only a marriage between a man and a woman is legal and valid in the state.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera speaks to the assembled crowd in the City Hall South Light court after the CA Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 as Deputy City Attorney Terri Stewart, Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director and Kate Kendell, NCLR Executive Director look on. Bill Wilson Copyright © 2009
Pali Cooper and Jeanne Rizzo, plaintiffs in the original California Supreme Court marriage case, and City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey listen to the press conference reaction after the CA Supreme rulling upholding Prop 8. Bill Wilson Copyright © 2009
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) recalled Harvey Milk’s message of hope.
“Today’s Supreme Court opinion upholding Prop. 8 is a stark reminder that the struggle for equality and justice must and will go on,” recalled Ammiano.
“We have come a long way since the days when Harvey Milk and I fought against the discrimination of the Briggs Initiative and Proposition 8 was no different.
“Harvey’s message then was one of hope and we can see how that message is making progress throughout the country – five states now embrace marriage equality and several more are on the verge.
“History has shown that equality cannot be denied to any group and it is only a matter of time before justice prevails.
“I encourage the supporters of same sex marriage to engage in peaceful, focused actions and we will transform the anger that is felt today into a successful message of political change.Supporters of same sex marriages block the streets in a civil disobedience act in San Francisco, California, May 26, 2009
“The decision today only strengthens my commitment and resolve to restore equality for all Californians.”
“What happened to ‘liberty and justice for all?’ How can all the other states in the country be rolling forward and California seem to be rolling backward? It is hard to believe that the Grinches and bullies were able to prevail today, but I know in my heart that the people of this state will soon reject Proposition 8 and restore equal protection under the law.
“For the 70,000 children being raised by same-sex couples, and for all couples worried about the economy and making ends meet, the idea of having to endure another expensive and divisive campaign where our lives are up for a vote is upsetting, this is very frustrating and sad,” said Pamela Brown, Marriage Equality USA Policy Director. “Since Prop 8 passed, our children have been targets of school yard bullies who taunt them that their parents can’t or aren’t really married; they have had to cope with lies and ugly stereotypes delivered by our opponents’ campaign ads. But Marriage Equality USA will ensure the next campaign is different and that our personal stories are told. We will reach out to our neighbors, call on our supportive clergy and remind everyone of the golden rule – to treat your neighbor as you’d like to be treated yourself.
“Tonight we will come together to share our disappointment and to get engaged for the next chapter of this struggle at over 90 rallies nationwide, including San Francisco’s City Hall at 5:00pm and a march to Yerba Buena Gardens for a subsequent rally at 7:00pm,” said McKay.
“Then on Saturday, we will meet in the middle of the state, in the Central Valley, at 1:00pm rally in Fresno.”
“California at its best is a beacon of equal rights and equal opportunities,”stated San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
“If we want to prosper together, we must respect each other.
“That’s why we must resolve to overturn this decision. Let this work start today.
“It is up to every single one of us who supports marriage equality to reach out to those who still disagree with our position and have a personal conversation about why it is so important to treat every Californian equally.
“Across the nation, states like Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts are recognizing that separate can never be equal under the eyes of the law.
“We must all do our part to make sure California joins in this march toward equality.
“Let’s be respectful. But let’s be clear. We must start changing minds today.
“I know many of my fellow Californians may initially agree with this ruling, but I ask them to reserve final judgment until they have discussed this decision with someone who will be affected by it.
“Please talk to a lesbian or gay family member, neighbor or co-worker and ask them why equality in the eyes of the law is important to every Californian.
“Please talk to local business leaders who know that this will cost jobs and make California less competitive.
“Please remember we all know someone who is hurt by this decision today.
“Please reach out to these friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors and discuss why this decision is wrong for California.
“When California started this journey five years ago, we were traveling virtually alone.
“In fact, many states that year voted to ban same-sex marriage.
“Today, five states, including Iowa, have moved to affirm marriage rights for gay couples, and more are poised to follow.
“Now we must redouble our efforts here in California to finally win this fight or equal rights,” urged Newsom.
“We are deeply disappointed with today’s majority decision issued by the California Supreme Court,” stated Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate.
“As the county moves forward on gay and lesbian equality, our Supreme Court took a giant step backwards.
“One year ago the California Supreme Court showed great courage and conviction in recognizing equal protection for all. Now we must regain marriage equality, and immediately go back on the ballot to repeal Proposition 8.
“Next year we will win back our rights.
“Until that time, Californians Against Hate will continue to closely watch all who oppose our civil rights. We will be a watchdog for our community.
“We will carefully monitor and take action against those who bully us and spend vast sums of money against us. Individuals and organizations who give millions of dollars to deny our full civil rights will be held accountable.
“Over the last 10 years, our opponents have beaten us at the ballot box in 30 out of 30 states.
“Now we are aggressively fighting back. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 5 states, and more will follow soon, including California .
“During the next election cycle, Californians Against Hate will closely scrutinize our opponents, carefully review their campaign reports and make sure that all who oppose our civil rights are abiding by California Election Law.
“All major donors must disclose their full financial support, be it monetary or non-monetary.
“Owners and principals of businesses must fully comply with the law. No hiding behind spouses or listing false occupations and information when reporting contributions.
“We will be watching very carefully.
“We have also begun looking into the principal organizations and their leaders who qualified and funded Proposition 8.
“These include the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family and the American Family Association
“They continually spend millions of dollars to try and prevent us from full equality.
“We live in a country that was founded with the express belief that “all men and women are created equal.” We will fight for that inalienable right so that future generations never, ever have to experience discrimination.”
Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) issued the following statement in response to the California Supreme Court decision on Proposition 8:
“A year ago, our Supreme Court reaffirmed the highest ideals of our republic. Today, it is only Justice Moreno in his dissent who now stands on the right side of history. Proposition 8 and the decision reach by the Court today weaken our Constitution. All minorities could now be at risk of losing fundamental rights by the will of the majority – a concept completely counter to the equal protection clause.
“For far too long, our nation has unfairly allowed state-sanctioned discrimination. We must not stop this effort until all loving relationships and all families are fully recognized with the rights, privileges, and joys of marriage.”
The National Organization for Marriage praised the decision.
“We’re grateful this court did not overturn the civil rights of all Californians to amend our own constitution,” Brian Brown, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “The 7 million Californians who worked hard to protect marriage as the union of husband and wife are breathing easier today.”
The crowd of largely gay marriage advocates outside the San Francisco courthouse started chanting “Shame on you. Shame on you” the moment the decision was announced.
“It’s what we expected based on the initial hearings,” said Margie Groeninger, who is married to her partner. “The justices have been clear that even though they view this as discriminatory, it’s out of their hands. I’m incredibly hurt and disappointed.”
In the long and twisting same-same marriage battle in California, this isn’t the first time the justices have ruled on the emotionally charged issue.
In May 2008 the same justices overturned a voter-approved law banning gay marriage and issued a decision favorable to same-sex marriage rights. Suddenly, the way was paved for thousands of gay couples to wed across the state.
More than 18,000 couples were married during the months before anti-gay marriage groups mobilized, vowing to challenge the court. They placed Proposition 8 on the ballot and went on to win.
When the justices originally ruled on gay marriage rights in 2008, they were looking at a different set of circumstances.
Their decision stemmed from a review of a prior ballot measure – Proposition 22 – which voters approved in 2000.
That measure also declared marriage valid only between a man and a woman, but it differed from Proposition 8 because it was not a change to the state’s constitution.
In 2008, after a length review of Proposition 22, the justices ruled 4-3 that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from the right of marriage. Chief Justice Ronald George wrote the majority opinion.
“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 an individual’s sexual orientation,” George wrote, “and … an individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis … to deny or withhold legal rights.”
The justices’ latest decision is a response to challenges filed to Proposition 8 by same-sex marriage supporters, including the county and city of San Francisco, and Attorney General Jerry Brown. Gay rights groups and Brown each had their own set of arguments challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
At a March 5 hearing before the court, gay and civil rights organizations argued that Proposition 8 was a sweeping revision of the constitution, and that the measure was disquieting because it strips away a basic right from a vulnerable minority.
“Relegating same-sex couples to domestic partnership does not provide them with everything but a word,” said Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.
“Proposition 8 changes the basic nature of our government,” he said, and establishes a constitutional principle that the majority can take away the rights of any minority.
Brown’s office argued that gay people have rights enshrined within the constitution to marry.
Proposition 8 supporters enlisted famed conservative attorney Kenneth Starr as their standard bearer to defend the measure. Starr, dean of the Pepperdine University Law School, gained fame by leading a sexual misconduct investigation of President Clinton.
At the March 5 hearing, Starr suggested that the power of the electorate to amend the state’s constitution can rise above the power of minority rights. “Under our theory, the people are sovereign and they can do very unwise things that tug at the equality issue,” he said.
He noted that the voters of California restored the death penalty in California after the state’s Supreme Court justices had found it to be unconstitutional.
See Related: MARRIAGE EQUALITY
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and Bay Area media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past five years. Email Bill Wilson at email@example.com.