The battle to protect marriage in California continues to rage. In 2000, 61.4 percent of voters chose to add “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” to the Family Code. Last May, the California Supreme Court struck down the law 4-3. The court contended that calling a heterosexual relationship marriage while referring to a homosexual relationship as a domestic partnership “poses at least a serious risk of denying the family relationship of same-sex couples such equal dignity and respect.”
After the decision, over a million Californians signed a petition to put the language on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. On November 4, 2008, Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote. The new amendment was challenged, and the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 in a 6-1 ruling on May 26, 2009. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Existing homosexual marriages performed before the passage of Proposition 8 will stand.
Denying homosexuals use of the term “marriage” does not violate their constitutional rights, said the court (emphases in original):
Contrary to petitioners’ assertion, Proposition 8 does not entirely repeal or abrogate the aspect of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right of privacy and due process. … Instead, the measure carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term “marriage” for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law, but leaving undisturbed all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
Practically speaking, there is homosexual “marriage” in California. Gays may form legally recognized domestic partnerships with “largely equivalent substantive rights.” They enjoy similar protections and benefits as heterosexual married couples. Despite access to the same constitutional protections as everyone else, as well as the rights and benefits of marriage, homosexuals who oppose Proposition 8 are not satisfied. Until Christ returns, they’ll continue waging court battles and drafting ballot initiatives.
The California Supreme Court has left us with a grand mess, and the slope just got more slippery. It was the court’s earlier decision, however, that signaled the eventual end of marriage as we know it and the subversive adoption of the term by people in incestuous and polygamous relationships.
People may scoff at such concerns and dismiss the slope. Not long ago, the very idea of marriage between two men seemed just as ludicrous and unlikely. Times have changed, as the court noted. It extended the right to marry to two people of the same sex, but expressly excluded polygamous and incestuous relationships:
We emphasize that our conclusion that the constitutional right to marry properly must be interpreted to apply to gay individuals and gay couples does not mean that this constitutional right similarly must be understood to extend to polygamous or incestuous relationships.
On what grounds? The court stated that its past “judicial decisions explain why our nation’s culture has considered [polygamous or incestuous relationships] inimical to the mutually supportive and healthy family relationships promoted by the constitutional right to marry.”
Hasn’t our nation’s culture considered homosexual relationships in the past also to be “inimical to the mutually supportive and healthy family relationships promoted by the constitutional right to marry”? What’s changed?
Although the historic disparagement of and discrimination against gay individuals and gay couples clearly is no longer constitutionally permissible, the state continues to have a strong and adequate justification for refusing to officially sanction polygamous or incestuous relationships because of their potentially detrimental effect on a sound family environment.
So a heterosexual marriage between two closely related individuals is “potentially detrimental” to a family, but marriage between two men is not? In what way? Why should marriage be limited to only two people? Once the “a man and a woman” limitation is done away with, how could a state prevent three people from marrying? What about the bisexual who wants to be married to a man and a woman or the NAMBLA freak who wants to marry a “consenting” minor? Isn’t denying them “marriage” discrimination, an equal protection violation?
The state’s highest court affirmed a strict scrutiny standard for sexual orientation. Should you decide to sleep with someone of the same sex, face discrimination because of it, and sue in California, a court will consider your sex life equivalent to skin color! If a court can conclude that sexual orientation is a suspect classification, why can’t it conclude the same about incestuous relationships?
Dismiss it, if you must. Be offended, if you choose. Send hate mail, if you’re inclined. But allowing two people of the same sex to declare themselves “married” renders the whole institution meaningless and opens the door to legally recognizing other “inimical” relationships. Perhaps 10 years from now, those cases will make headlines.