Same-Sex Marriage in California and Prop 8: A Brief History

So, are you mystified about the state of same-sex marriage in California? At first glance it looks easy. On one side, you’ve got your proponents of same-sex marriage: Advocacy groups like the ACLU; big corporations like Google; and Americans everywhere who think that other people’s romantic lives are none of their business. And on the other side you’ve got rich Mormons, Carrie Prejean, and people who think that marriage is a totally sacred institution that’s always been treated with the utmost respect throughout all of human history and nobody ever gets divorced and Ted Haggard was FRAMED dammit.

But look a little closer, and you’ll find that California has a weird and complex relationship with same-sex marriage, and that proponents of “opposite marriage,” as the eminent Ms. Prejean has termed it, have had quite a fight on their hands when it comes to preserving their way of life, which by the way is honorable and traditional and totally without any problems. Also whenever gay people get married God gives a kitten pancreatic cancer.

Sorry. My point is that the recent history of marriage in California is a bit of a labyrinth, and if you’re going to try to understand the case that began in court last week — Perry v. Schwarzenegger —  you’re going to have to learn a little history.

So here it is.

The California State Assembly amends language in state law to ensure that marriage may only exist between a man and a woman. But ambiguity in the law allows same-sex marriages performed in other states to be recognized here.

November 2000
Caifornia voters pass Proposition 22, which prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

February – March 2004
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom orders that city and county workers revise marriage forms and begin allowing gay couples to marry, in direct contravention of Proposition 22. The next day, two conservative groups, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Campaign for California Families, file a court action to stop the marriages from being performed. By March, the California Supreme Court halts the weddings.

August 2004
The California Supreme Court rules that the marriages performed in February and March are void.

May 2008
A series of legal proceedings resulting from the conservative groups’ court actions results in the California Supreme Court case known as In re Marriage Cases. In the case, the court renders Proposition 22 invalid, holding that statutes limiting marriage to hetero couples violates state constitution. Same-sex couples begin marrying.

November 2008
Prop 8 passes, amending the state constitution and limiting marriage to men and women.

May 2009
In Strauss v.Horton, The California Supreme Court holds that Prop 8 was lawful but that marriages performed before it was passed — after In re Marriage Cases but before the constitutional amendment, are valid. A few days before this, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, files suit in federal court, challenging the validity of Prop 8 under the U.S. Constitution on behalf of two same-sex couples. Notably, the attorneys arguing the case are Ted Olsen and David Boies,  who argued opposite sides of Bush v. Gore. The case is known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

January 11-15, 2010
Perry v. Schwarzenegger begins. During its first week, several notable developments occur:

  • In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court bars U.S. District Judge Vaughan R. Walker, the judge hearing Perry, from broadcasting the trial on television. The majority opinion agrees with Prop 8 proponents that releasing video of the witnesses could subject them to potential harm.
  • Olsen presents an animus argument, asserting that animosity toward gays and lesbians drove anti-same-sex-marriage advocates to pursue Prop 8. The argument has precedent: In Romer v. Evans, a 1995 Supreme Court case, the Court ruled that a Colorado law, which prevented gays from legal protections, was based on animosity toward gays and therefore unconstitutional.
  • To prove animus, Olsen presents a letter written by Hak-Shing William Tam of the Traditional Family Coalition, a Prop 8 organizer. In the letter, Tam equated same-sex marriage with prostitution and “sex with children,” and asserted that legalizing same-sex marriage would result in California falling “into Satan’s hands.” Earlier in the month, Tam, a defender in the case, had asked Judge Walker to remove him from the case, fearing publicity that could endanger him and his family. Walker has yet to rule on the request.
  • Testimony was offered by Cambridge University professor Michael Lamb, whose research showed that same-sex couples are equally capable of raising children as heterosexual couples. Lawyers for the Prop 8 campaign referred to Lamb as a “committed liberal” whose testimony was ideologically tainted.
  • Also testifying was Helen Zia, who claimed that marrying her partner gave their relationship a legitimacy that couldn’t be matched by a domestic partnership.

Next week, San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders is expected to take the stand in defense of same-sex marriage. Sanders is noteworthy for having changed his stance on gay marriage — from “anti” to “pro” — after learning his daughter was a lesbian.

17 thoughts on “Same-Sex Marriage in California and Prop 8: A Brief History”

  1. Those dang rich Mormons. They’re almost as bad as the Jews.

    Slippery slope my friend, slippery slope.

  2. Wow, Godwinned by the second comment. Nice.

    The slope between “calling out the Mormon church and its members for supporting Prop 8” and “anti-Semitism similar to that which preceded the Holocaust” may be slippery, but it’s also extraordinarily long and shallow. To wit:

    The church largely stays out of politics. But in this case, the Salt Lake City-based church has sent letters, held video conferences and in church meetings asked for volunteers to support the campaign. In response, some church members have poured in their savings and undertaken what may be an unprecedented grassroots mobilization for the effort.

    Prop. 8 is on pace to be the costliest race in the nation, except for the billion-dollar presidential election. The Yes on 8 campaign estimates that up to 40 percent of its donations come from Mormons. Some others estimate that Mormons account for over 70 percent of donations from individuals.

  3. The only reason things are in such a mess is that a minority of people are challenging the institution of marriage, which has stood for five thousand years as a relationship between a man and a woman. It has worked beautifully for FIVE THOUSAND YEARS! We just don’t want to mess with something that has kept societies strong and growing for thousands of years. Those who seek to change marriage are not seeking the legitimacy of marriage… they are seeking the legitimacy of their abnormal behavior. They can live together, have sex together and enjoy all the freedoms that any other person enjoys. Marriage is not a right… it is an institution we must protect if we are going to ensure the safety and health of our society.

  4. Just because it was done in the past doesn’t mean it’s good or right. And for thousands of years, the institution of marriage stood not for the idealized relationship you claim, but for the forced joining of two young people by their parents to consolidate political power. But by all means, let’s all go back to a time when women were subservient to men, slavery was legal, and supposed heretics were burned at the stake.

    Your religious definition can discriminate as much as it wants, but the legal definition must be separate from all religious definitions, and therefore all-inclusive. And personally I think “ensure the safety and health of our society” is just a polite way of saying “force everyone to believe what I believe,” which is arrogant at best, and at worst more dangerous than the “abnormal behavior” you fear so much.

    BTW…”kept societies strong?” What’s the divorce rate again?

  5. Laura is right. The only thing keeping people’s opposite marriages together is the security of knowing those abnormal gays can’t have it.

    I’m kidding. Fuck you, Laura, you hateful ignoramus.

  6. Great Post.

    And I’ll second Fraz’s praise, Mr. Hooks, with a cheer for TL’s “Fuck You,” as well.

    What? You expect me to maintain decorum just ’cause I blog here? You got the wrong RobNoxious.

  7. Point taken Mr Ott, agreed, the mormons had an important role in supporting Proposition 8. I was more taking issue with the “rich” part of your comment, which to me at least sounds a lot like the depiction of Jews as rich exploiters. Are you accusing the mormons of anything less? I realize it’s a single line of your post and said in jest, it just caught my eye.

    Polarization of sides on this issue won’t serve either group, in that scenario it’s winner take all. Let’s end the persecution and name-calling on both sides and maybe we’ll be able to work this out.

  8. I take it all back. I read some more of your stuff and I’m clearly making a flood out of spilled milk. You’re freakin’ hilarious dude. Sorry for taking offense.

  9. The equality argument is valid only in limited areas of law such as in property rights and visitation, issues which have already been addressed and implemented into fair protections for all involved. The argument that gays should be treated equally 100% though, including being called “married”, just does not fly. Gays cannot procreate by nature, opposite sex couples can. That is not equal, it is unequal. A gay couple is different than a straight couple because of this distinction. Thus, you cannot claim equality 100% in “gay marriage”. Those who do are either ignorant to this distinction, getting caught up in the bandwagon syndrome, simply total egomaniacs, or some other description I haven’t thought of. Gays that are obsessed with this issue would be better served leaving the term “marriage” for the straights and getting over yourselves. You cannot make new human beings in your commitment, so you are not equal. I am gay and I approve this message.

  10. Well, I don’t believe you’re gay.

    What you’re doing is using false authority: You claim that you’re gay so that your idiotic argument that gay people should be treated as second-class citizens will seem to have more weight. Like most people who make such marble-mouthed tea-party-appropriate comments, you’re assuming we’re all stupid (if you respected our intelligence, you wouldn’t use such an incredibly lame argument), and that we’ll think, “Oh! Well, he’s gay and he doesn’t believe in gay marriage, and since as a gay person he’s the ultimate authority on all things gay.” But we know better. We know you’re using the anonymity of the internet to make stuff up about yourself.

    The rest of us also know that a stupid argument is a stupid argument, whether it’s proffered by a straight person or a gay person. So seriously: Stop fucking with us. You’re in way over your head.

  11. Second class, world class, who cares class, gays cannot have sex and make new human beings, so they are not equal. It’s the most obvious inequality. I’m gay and you think a gay dude can’t be against gay marriage so you are stupid, ranting that I’m hiding behind anonymity bla bla bla. In way over my head? That’s a laugh. I’m gay and I honor and respect those who are better than me in one area of life, that is, those who in their commitment and sexual relations can make new human beings. In other areas of life there are matters of equality, but not marriage. Gays deserve legal protections in civil unions, not marriage. It’s a fight over a word. Gays who demand the word marriage to apply to them are self centered bigots.

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