In 2000, California passed the discriminatory “Defense of Marriage Act.” The court ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the “fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship.” The Justices ruled that the state’s “one man/one woman” marriage laws violate the civil rights of same-sex couples. (Twenty-seven states have passed discriminatory marriage amendments.)
The California marriage decision will affect over 36 million people – well over 10% of the nation’s total population – including more than 100,000 same-sex couples in California – one quarter of whom have children (according to the US Census).
In a 4-3 decision, drafted by Chief Justice Ronald George, the court stated: “In light of the fundamental nature of the substantive rights embodied in the right to marry — and their central importance to an individual’s opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society — the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all individuals and couples, without regard to their sexual orientation.”
The California Supreme Court ruled that domestic partnerships are not a substitute for marriage and that same sex couples should be permitted to marry. The court also noted: “Furthermore, in contrast to earlier times, 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. We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.” The court’s decision takes effect in 30 days.
California has a rich history of establishing fairness for all. In 1948, the California Supreme Court was the first court in the nation to overturn a state ban on interracial marriage. The California legislature has twice passed bills to allow marriage equality. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed both. Today the California Supreme Court Justices did their job to ensure all citizens equal treatment under the law.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who argued the case for San Francisco, stated “Today the California Supreme Court took a giant leap to ensure that everybody – not just the state of California, but throughout the country – will have equal treatment under the law.” Most Americans believe marriage equality will be a reality in their lifetimes. Two people in a committed, trusting and loving relationship deserve the dignity and support that come with marriage.
Sadly, here in Michigan, our Supreme Court took a different turn when faced with the opportunity to respect families. Just last week, the Michigan Supreme Court came to a decision that jeopardizes the health care of families in committed relationships. We look forward to the day when committed couples in Michigan have the same chance to legalize their relationships. Triangle Foundation will continue to work for fairness for all families in our state. We are inspired by California and look forward to the day when ALL citizens of Michigan will have the opportunity to realize their hopes and dreams by marrying the person they love.