Why All The Fuss Over Gay Marriage In California?
By James Donahue
When the California Supreme Court struck
down the state’s ban on gay marriage last May, the decision sparked a burning campaign by conservative Californians
to rectify what many saw as a serious moral and social problem.
Thus a petition was circulated to put the
definition of marriage as only a union between a man and woman on the November ballot. The petition gained a massive 1,120,801
signatures, nearly double the number needed to force the issue. And thus was born that controversial Proposition 8.
As we all know, the issue carried and now
is the subject of mass public demonstrations, at least three lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, an emotional editorial
commentary by Keith Olbermann and even a statement by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger urging challengers to continue
Olbermann said the issue is all about love
for one another and he decried those who would strike out against it in any form, including the marriage of a man to another
man, or a woman to another woman.
In the Huffington Post Frank Selvaggi wrote:
“Marriage is the least of it. This is just the start, folks. This was about writing discrimination directly into our
largest state’s Constitution. The opposition is now emboldened. They will wield this like an axe mercilessly. They will
go after the 18,000 same-sex marriages that have already taken place in California. They will go after same-sex benefits in
the public sector much like they did in Michigan. They will try and minimize or even abolish any legal standing we have as
couples and families.”
The statements sound like an emotionally-charged
fear response to what voters approved. The ballot measure called for a Constitutional amendment that would override portions
of the Supreme Court ruling, adding a new section to the state Equal Protection clause. It reads: Only marriage between a
man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
As liberal as most people living in California
have appeared to have become in recent years, the division over same sex marriage shows that a majority of voters still feel
squeamish about allowing people to have Christian or legal weddings to others of the same sex. They are even more concerned
that teachers in the public school system may openly discuss and possibly promote the idea. Would that not confuse the sexual
roles our society would prefer our children adopt? After all, none of us would be here if it were not for partnerships between
our parents, who had to be at least acting heterosexual at the moment of our conception.
The very concept of marriage is more of a
legal act than anything else. Couples have been living together and even raising families without the bond of marriage for
ages. That they are recognized as married partners has played roles in filing income tax forms and estate inheritance matters
after one of the partners dies.
Selvaggi’s concern that the legal standing
of gay partners will be abolished appears to be an empty argument, at least in California. All couples, no matter what sex,
are recognized in the state as having a domestic partnership. This is the same as what is called a commonlaw marriage in other
states. It is a legal or personal relationship between individuals who live together and share a common domestic life even
though they are not joined by a traditional marriage or civil union.
While the law is sometimes vague and subject
to challenge when it comes to inheritance from a domestic partnership, couples may protect their assets even further by entering
into a constructive trust.
California law states that domestic partnerships
grant “same-sex couples all state-level rights and obligations of marriage – in areas such as inheritance, income
tax, insurance and hospital visitation,” but does not apply to “federal-level rights of marriage that cannot be
granted by states.” In other words, once the couple leaves California, they become subject to the laws and legal interpretations
of the laws of the state in which they choose to live.
And this brings us right back to the issue
of marriage between same-sex couples. Marriage appears to be the one binding act that assures equal rights and privileges
between couples no matter where they live. While love may be involved, it is not the crux of the debate whatsoever.