As the legal, religious and political battles rage over gay
marriage, the issues become more prevalent, the people more
passionate and the future more ambiguous.
With the unanimous vote of the California Supreme Court to halt
the City and County of San Francisco’s issuing of marriage
licenses to same-sex couples last week, the legal implications of
the case are just beginning.
Thursday’s decision came after lawsuits were filed against
San Francisco County Clerk Nancy Alfaro on behalf of three San
The lawsuits, filed by two conservative groups, including the
Campaign for California Families, asked for an injunction against
the marriages and stated that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex
couples is illegal because it goes against California state
At the request of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the office of
Attorney General Bill Lockyer also filed a petition supporting an
Proposition 22 and state family code currently determine
California law regarding gay marriage. Both say that California
will not recognize a marriage unless it is between a man and a
woman. Proposition 22, which passed in 2000 with 61.4 percent of
the vote, ensures that a gay marriage recognized by another state
would not be recognized in California.
San Francisco sued the state, arguing that Proposition 22
violates the equal protection clause of the California
constitution, which states that each person must be granted the
same legal rights.
The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on the
constitutionality of Proposition 22 and will determine whether gay
marriage is allowed in California. The ruling is expected to take
place in late May or early June.
The case will not only have huge impacts on gay marriage, but
also on the issue of whether a county can violate a state law that
the county deems unconstitutional. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
acted against state law by allowing same-sex marriages in his
Whatever decision the California Supreme Court makes, it is
likely the opposing side will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many expect the federal court will take the case and will
officially determine for the entire nation whether it is
constitutional to ban gay marriage.
Whichever course the California Supreme Court decides to take
will be complicated.
If the court decides the altered marriage application San
Francisco has been using is illegal, then the legal status of all
the people who have married using the form is unknown. Both
straight and gay couples have married using the new form, so the
ruling could cause trouble for heterosexual couples who have
recently married in San Francisco as well.
Additionally, domestic partnership rights are invalidated if one
individual marries, so it is unknown whether the same-sex couples
who married and were previously domestic partners will lose their
domestic partnership rights.
If the court rules it is unconstitutional to ban gay marriage,
it would cause a nationwide uproar among many political and
“To allow gay marriage would be the easiest thing
practically, but the hardest thing politically,” said
Christine Littleton, a law professor specializing in gay and
For now, the status of the same-sex couples who have married is
in legal limbo.
“We’re technically married in San Francisco, but not
in California,” said UCLA alumnus Grant Tyler Peterson,
referring to himself and his partner, Eric “Gumby”
Anderson, a doctoral candidate and lecturer at UC Irvine.
Anderson said there has been “a patchwork of
recognition” among institutions.
“The institutions are as confused about this as anyone
else. I think that’s what’s great, everyone’s in
flux. There are no answers. In a state of flux, you realize,
“˜What’s the big deal if two people of the same gender
want to get married?'” he said.
Activists against gay marriage say it is important that two
people of the same gender not be able to marry because it
undermines the sanctity of marriage and because the two cannot
“Just as a sperm and an egg are required in the miracle of
life, a man and a woman are required for marriage,” said
Randy Thomasson, the executive director of the Campaign for
California Families, in an e-mail.
Mary Margaret Smith, student affairs officer for the UCLA
Women’s Studies Program and UCLA Center for the Study of
Women, said she does not believe marriage between two same-sex
individuals undercuts marriage.
Instead, she said short “drive-thru” marriages, like
that of Britney Spears, who annulled her marriage after two days,
are insulting to the institution. Smith recently received her
marriage license with her partner in San Francisco.
As for the court decision, she is reminded of civil rights
actions of the 1960s.
“I have a feeling that it will all come down to whether or
not there are separate but equal equivalents to marriage, and
whether that distinction is constitutional,” she said.