19 June 2008

California Same-sex Marriage

  1. The California Civil Code, which defines marriage laws, was amended in the 1970s to define marriage as "a civil contract between a man and a woman" and explicitly forbade "persons of the same sex from entering lawful marriage."
  2. In 2000, Californians voted to adopt Proposition 22 (aka, "the Knight Initiative"), which clarified the state's marriage code to state that only opposite-sex marriages would be recognized; i.e., a same-sex marriage performed in another state would not be honored by California.
  3. In early 2004, under the direction of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, city clerks issued ~4000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This was done in defiance of state law (points 1 & 2, above); however, Newsom argued that state law violated the US Constitution.
  4. In late 2004, all of these marriages were subsequently voided by the state Supreme Court. Nevertheless, several suits were filed by groups opposed to same-sex marriage. Through the appeals process, these lawsuits eventually made their way to the state Supreme Court in March 2008.
  5. In 2005-2007, the state legislature passed bills allowing same-sex marriage; these were vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on the grounds that they complicated issues by not addressing Proposition 22, by preempting anticipated state Supreme Court decisions, etc.
  6. In late 2007, an initiative called the "Limit on Marriage Amendment" (or the "California Marriage Protection Act") gained enough signatures to be placed on the November 2008 ballot. The act echoes (exactly) the wording of Proposition 22.
  7. In May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled that the 1970s legislation and Proposition 22 that restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples were unconstitutional and issued a June 16th deadline for counties to begin allowing same-sex marriage.
  8. On June 16, 2008, the first* same-sex marriages in California were performed. (*"first" under the current legalities....)
  9. In November 2008, Californians will vote on whether or not to amend their state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. The amendment uses the same wording as Proposition 22, which was just ruled unconstitutional, but if the amendment passes then it becomes part of the constitution (i.e., not "merely" a law) and so by definition could not be unconstitutional.