Will New York Break Gay Marriage Log Jam in CA?

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Friday's dramatic passage of a law permitting same sex marriage in New York State raises the obvious question: What does this mean for California? The answer? A squishy "too soon to tell."  

New York has a set of circumstances unique to that state, including an extremely popular Catholic governor with an openly gay "brother-in-law"; relatively liberal Republican legislators; Wall Street Republicanswilling to buck up wobbling GOP legislators, strong public support for gay marriage (58% in recent polls) and the ability to write the law in a way that allayed concerns of the Catholic Church .

Here in California, Prop. 8 is mired in legal battle. While supporters of same sex marriage have won important legal victories, including the recent rejection of a motion  to strike down Vaughn Walker's Prop. 8 decision, the issue is in some ways on the slow track.

The appeal of Walker's decision is stalled at the 9th Circuit, which awaits legal advice from the California Supreme Court on whether Prop. 8 backers have legal standing to appeal Judge Walker's decision. A date for oral arguments has not been set. It was thought to happen in September, but until a 7th justice is appointed by Governor Brown to replace retired justice Carlos Moreno my guess is the court will be reluctant to schedule it. Otherwise there's a risk that a random Appeals Court judge will sit in as the 7th justice and take part in the decision -- not a good scenario for the new Chief Justice.

As for the politics, insiders say it's highly unlikely gay marriage will be back on the ballot in California before Prop 8 plays out in court. That could be 2012 or 13 ... meaning the 2014 ballot at the earliest. Reason: Who wants to fund a ballot measure that could lose and undermine what is so far a successful legal challenge in federal court?

So, as for the impact of New York on California? It surely makes same sex marriage more broadly available and therefore less "marginal" in the U.S. That could affect judges, including Anthony Kennedy who most agree is the key US Supreme Court justice on this issue. They often don't like to get too far out in front of the public.

That said, at least two other states -- Minnesota and N. Carolina -- are said to be considering ballot measures banning gay marriage. So -- this issue is far from done.

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  • Allen Price

    Any discussion of the status of the Calif. position on same sex marriage must include the expressed view of The People, not just the judiciary. Both hold considerable power. Not once, but twice the people of this liberal state voted strongly to retain the definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. If the people are believed to hold a respected “common sense” about broad issues, then the difference of the judiciary and the people should be approached with respect for the wisdom of both. Calif. has always been a state of forward thinkers and reverence for natural processes in the world around us. The concept of “stewardship” has been grounded in the respect for continuity of environmental process and the short-sightedness of short term thinking. Surely, the nature of human sexuality over the ages is also worthy of deep respect for it’s integrity and inherent wisdom. In the environment, we respect what we do not know and move cautiously. And so should any changes of one of the most fundamental of human relationships – marriage.

  • C_otter

    I agree with Allen. Change to the concept and definition of marriage may need to occur slowly. Luckily the rights of our citizens who happen to prefer a partner of the same gender have been discussed for decades – which is long enough. Same-sex partners deserve the same fundamental government acknowledged rights as those of opposite-sex partners. And yes – they have demonstrated they can be excellent parents. The desires of a majority of those who vote CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be allowed to deny fundamental rights of adult partnerships.

    Thankfully, the Founding Fathers of our state and our country provided for a judiciary branch that is inherently empowered to protect the rights of a significant minority class from the oppression of a majority vote.