Gay Marriage Legal In California, Court Declares

GREAT COURT RULING

A deeply divided California Supreme Court said Thursday that California’s ban on gay marriage is not legal, a move that sent off wild cheers and celebration in San Francisco but one that will face new fights from opponents of same-sex marriage.

Proponents gathered Thursday morning awaiting the opinion, which came on a 4-3 vote, and the crowds erupted moments after it was released at 10 a.m.

On the courthouse steps, impromptu press conferences erupted amid gleeful sobbing and cheers.

In its 121-page majority opinion, the court stated emphatically that California law may not deprive gays and lesbians of the same rights of other citizens.

“…(R)etaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise – now emphatically rejected by this state – that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects “second-class citizens” who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples,” the opinion authored by Chief Justice Ronald M. George said.

“Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.”

By midmorning Thursday, same-sex couples hoping for a favorable ruling began to line up outside the San Francisco city clerk’s office.

Standing at the head of the line, San Francisco couple Bruce Ivie and David Bowers said they were waiting for history.

“I just feel it,” said Ivie, 51 wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a pink triangle and “Proud Forever” on it. “California has always been a trendsetter. It’s now about time.”

Ivie and Bowers, together for 28 years, were among the thousands of gay couples who rushed to City Hall to be married in 2004.

They said they were horrified and heartbroken when their marriage was later voided, and spent the next four years following the gay marriage case as it made its way through the courts.

“We’ll have each other forever, but we deserve the same rights as everybody else,” Bowers said. “How can it hurt anyone else?”

A line slowly began to snake around the vinyl ropes outside the clerk’s office.

Outside the court building Thursday, gay and lesbian proponents gathered, with many saying they were extremely anxious as they awaited the opinion.

Among the group were two Davis women, Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, who said they have been together for 34 years and were the 45th couple married at City Hall in 2004.

Pontac carried a sign that said “Life feels different when you are married.”

“We are full of hope,” Bailes said. “This is extremely important. We have been fighting this fight for a really long time.”

The women, who will speak tonight at a Sacramento gathering in midtown, drove to San Francisco to be at the courthouse for the decision.

“Shelly said this morning that she wouldn’t be this nervous when we get married,” Pontac said. “We’ve been together for 34 years. It has been a long-enough engagement.”

After the opinion was issued and the crowd erupted, the two Davis women reacted differently.

Bailes cried, while a grinning Pontac got on her cell phone to deliver the news to someone else.

“This is incredible,” Bailes said. “This is really it. We are legal.”

Added Pontac, “We are planning our wedding day.”

Kendell, one of the plaintiffs, said she expected the ruling to have a far-reaching impact nationally.

“Even though the ruling only applies to California, we all know the effect the state will have on the rest of the country,” she said. “This is a harbinger state. People look to the state for leadership. The sunshine here today will extend to everywhere in this country where it has been hard to be a gay person.”

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Robert Novak Marks 45th Anniversary Of Syndicated Political Column

Readers of my blog know I admire and enjoy Robert Novak.  I have read his work since at least 1988.  He may be a conservative curmudgeon to some, but I see him as a gritty and determined reporter with the old-school mentality of how to gather news and then write it in his columns.  I love this type of Washington reporter! Now Novak observes his 45th year as a syndicated political columnist.  While Novak is far more conservative than I am, it was his freindly conversation with me following a speech in Madison that proved he was not the ‘Darth Vadar’ that some like to portray him as being.  Taking time out to chat about how he crafts his reports meant a lot to me.

His article in the Washington Post is here and deserves a full read.

The Evans-Novak column was originally designated “liberal” by the National Review. Evans was an intimate of the Kennedys, and I had voted for John F. Kennedy. When Evans and I paid a courtesy call on Richard M. Nixon in 1963 to tell him about our new column, he advised against expected Democratic bias and urged us to give Republicans an occasional break. Although Barry Goldwater had been one of my best sources, the column’s tone was considered anti-Goldwater during his 1964 presidential campaign.

There is no disputing that the column and I moved steadily rightward in subsequent years, but always based on reporting. The column’s hawkish line on Vietnam reflected annual trips by Evans and me to the war zone, where we concluded that the conflict was not winnable the way it was being fought. Three decades later, I opposed military intervention in Iraq based partly on my reportage showing that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. After that, I was no longer invited with other conservative journalists for special White House briefings.

The benefits and pitfalls of my method are reflected in the very first column, which revealed friendly collaboration between the Republican Party’s opposite ideological poles: Sen. Goldwater and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Like many of my “scoops,” it proved ephemeral. When Rockefeller’s presidential campaign slumped, he turned against Goldwater.

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If Felons In Prison Can Marry, Why Not Loving Gay Couples?

The New York Times always has meaningful letters to the editor that I find highly enjoyable to read.  I post a pithy one here this morning, just a short time before a very important California State Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, as a way to showcase the lunacy of this whole idea about limiting marriage only to straight couples.  In a few short sentences that hits to the core of the argument, the writer below proves how hollow the voices of discrimination truly are.

The writer of this letter was a professor and advisor to James during his years at Middlebury College in Vermont. 

“Marrying at Rikers: Few Frills, Many Rules” (news article, May 10) makes an important if unintended point: Although prison nuptials are grim and cheerless, the civil right to marry is so fundamental that it is not denied to inmates convicted of very serious crimes, even if they will not be free to live with their spouses for years, if ever.

But same-sex couples in this country, except in Massachusetts, are not allowed to marry even if they are exemplary citizens making valuable contributions to their communities, even if they have been living and raising children together for decades.

Isn’t it time to end such a blatant injustice?

Judy Olinick

Middlebury, Vt.

May 10, 2008

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