On Thursday, May 15, in a 4-3 decision, the California Supreme Court struck down the state ban against same-sex marriage. Six of the judges were Republicans. The decision overturned the voter-sanctioned ban on gay marriage, calling the previous ban unconstitutional and claiming that domestic partnerships were not an equal substitute. The new ruling, which has struck down laws banning same-sex marriage, could mean gay marriages will be performed within as little as a month, when the ruling becomes official. According to Queer Student Union (QSU) co-chair Nina Garcia, â€œitâ€™s amazing to have same-sex marriage. It is great progress for equality.â€ Professor Leila Rupp, instructor of Womenâ€™s Studies 150: Sex and Romance exclaims,â€œItâ€™s about time!â€ and counts herself proud to be a Californian.
Although the ban will be lifted in California, federal rights and protections afforded to opposite-sex married couples will not apply to same-sex couples because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage. Massachusetts is the only other state to recognize same-sex marriage; although other states offer domestic partnerships with some rights given to opposite-sex marriages. According to Equality California, a group dedicated simultaneously to the â€œcommunity, hopes, dreams and families and youth,â€ this ruling will allow California to â€œgive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people full equalityâ€. Other states would not recognize Californiaâ€™s same-sex marriages if the couples were to move or travel.
Professor Rupp believes that she will probably now marry her partner of 30 years, but believes that her love does not need external state validation to be real. She also brings up an the larger issue of so many legal and economic responsibilities (such as power of attorney, life insurance benefits, inheritance, etc.) being legally tied to marriage when they should be granted to whomever a person chooses.
QSU co-chair Sam Cisneros calls the move a â€œgood step in the right direction,â€ and believes that same-sex marriage will â€œinevitably become a part of society.â€ Cisneros also recognizes that some states might be slow to respond. Movements for same-sex marriages in other states could soon be invigorated, and might eventually pave the way for a federal ruling. Nina Garcia believes that, â€œsometimes people just need a little pushâ€¦ and hopefully theyâ€™ll accept it as it is â€“ the right thing.â€
Californiaâ€™s new ruling could spark momentum for other states to allow gay marriage. As the state with the largest state population in the country, California could act as a legitimizing agent for gay marriage elsewhere. Many celebrity couples also reside in California and a wave of celebrity marriages, such as the proposed nuptials of Ellen DeGeneres and long-time partner Portia de Rossi, could act to further legitimize same-sex marriages for the rest of the nation.
Garcia believes that in addition to allowing non-heterosexuals to marry in the future, which she describes as â€œfrickinâ€™ awesome,â€ the legal move will help UCSB students come out to their parents because their sexuality will be more accepted in the larger community. Disclosing to friends and family is often a difficult event. Professor Rupp believes that for UCSB students the decision â€œis a sign of a kind of equality that really mattersâ€.
In celebration of the historic event, the Queer Student Union held an impromptu queer bombing at Giovanniâ€™s the night of the announcement, with about 60 people in attendance. The on-campus group could possibly be planning another, more public celebratory event, but arenâ€™t sure at the moment. When asked what this court ruling meant for the annual Queer Wedding, an on campus event protesting the inequity of marriage and celebrating queer love, Brittini Tanenbaum, Programming coordinater and Vice CoChair of the QSU replied, â€œThe wedding will still happen because not everyone in the country has rights.â€ The QSU meets Tuesdays at 7 in the MCC and can be contacted at email@example.com or through their Facebook group.
The lift of the ban is expected to prompt backlash from conservatives, and already many anti-queer organizations such as Save Marriage and Protect Marriage are pushing for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. An amendment would need enough signatures to bring it to the ballots before it could be voted on by the state in November. Governor Schwarzenegger says he will respect the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision, despite vetoing previous legal attempts to allow same-sex marriage. The proposed constitutional amendment would nullify the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision by inserting, â€œOnly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,â€ a phrase which 18 other states have already added to their state constitutions. When asked what he would say to those who want to keep marriage only between man and woman, Cisneros replied, â€œJust have respect for everyone. Itâ€™s just love that people want.â€