Obviously it's good news - and a sign that maybe people aren't as homophobic as they used to be - but at the same time... not so much. They didn't PASS legislation that would make same-sex marriage legal. They overturned legislation that would make same-sex marriage illegal. You're probably thinking - well what's the big difference? While it has ultimately the same legal outcome, there is a difference.
We're super-thrilled that this ban was overturned... but why was there a ban in the works at all? Considering the gay population in San Francisco alone, it's hard to believe it took this long for same-sex couples to get rights beyond 'domestic partnership'. I think the fact that there was ever recent legislation to reinforce a ban on same-sex marriage, is a big problem. Plus Gov. Schwarzenegger have twice vetoed legislation that would've given same-sex couples marriage rights.
The law that was overturned was 'Proposition 22' from 2000 - it stated that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" and passed with 61% of the vote. A trial court judge in San Francisco voided that law in 2005, but a midlevel appeals court overturned his decision in 2006... which brings us to today.
Regardless of how or why we got here, we can't consider this ruling anything less than a victory. It is great news. However, this isn't a total victory yet... Religious and conservative groups are still working on stopping same-sex unions.
First they're likely to ask the court to reconsider this decision. (Hopefully the judges will reject that request). But that's not all - they're currently trying to get something put on the November ballot that would ban gay marriage. If this is passed, it would overturn this recent decision and make same-sex marriage illegal again. We should know by June if the anti-gay groups gathered enough signatures to get their amendment on the ballot. Gov. Schwarzenegger claims that he will respect the court's decision and not support an amendment to the state constitution that would overturn their decision. Let's just hope that McCain doesn't win the presidency (my worst fucking nightmare for a ton of reasons).
The overturn of the ban will become official in about 30 days at which point couples are expected to "flock" to wed. California has no residency requirement to obtain a marriage license, so same-sex couples from other states may very well travel to Cali to get hitched. Unfortunately, most states don't recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere (and obviously the federal government doesn't either).
So yes, this is great news... this is a victory. But can we really see it as a sign that homophobia is getting better? I don't really think so. Four judges decided in favor of gay marriage this week, but 61% of voters were against it in 2000. Those are scary numbers for a state that has such a huge gay population. (California has an estimated 92,000 same-sex couples). So while we should be celebrating, but we should not be satisfied.
Massachusetts is the only other state to legalize same sex marriage (2004). Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont have 'civil unions', while Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia provide some 'marriage-like' rights to same-sex couples. And while New York still has not legalized same sex marriage, in February they did rule that they would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
Meanwhile 26 states have approved constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage. In addition to California's potential amendment, Florida has already gotten their proposed 'gay marriage ban' amendment on their ballot and Arizona is considering a similar one.
So by all means - celebrate, propose to your loved ones, plan your trip to Cali... but remember that we're far from done.