California is reacting to this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court found opponents of gay marriage did not have the legal standing to appeal a lower court’s ruling overturning Propostion 8, which banned gay marriage. The decision essentially allows same-sex marriage to resume in California but do not affect the rest of the country.
Governor Jerry Brown issued a statement saying gay marriage should be permitted as soon as possible.
“After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California,” Brown said. “In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”
The Supreme Court ruling won’t officially make it to the Ninth Circuit for 25 days. But state Attorney General Kamala Harris says the Appeals Court can act immediately and it should.
“We cannot delay or deny individuals their civil rights," she says. "And for that reason I urge the Ninth Circuit to lift the stay as early as possible.”
Harris says as soon as the stay is lifted, California’s 58 counties must start issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The Court of Appeals says it will take the full 25 days to allow time for opponents to request a re-hearing.
Democratic Assemblymember Rich Gordon is head of the California Legislatures’s LGBT Caucus. He says he’s happy with the decision and is not upset about the limited scope of the ruling.
“I long for the day when all Americans will have the rights that gay and same-sex couples in California will have,” Gordon says. “But we’ve always, in this country, treated marriage as a state’s issue. And so if we have to fight this issue state by state, that’s what we’ll do.”
And Gordon says it’s a personal victory as well.
“Five years ago during the window between the State Sumpreme Court ruling and Prop 8, my husband and I were married,” he says. “So, it’s personal for us that others can now have the rights we have.”
Assembly Speaker John Pérez is the first openly gay person to lead the lower chamber.
“This is the first time in my life that I felt that the law fully recognized me as being equal to everyone else,” says Pérez.
Legislative Democrats quickly sent out statements praising the ruling. Republicans reacted much more slowly. Senator Jean Fuller says she’s been searching the Scriptures for an appropriate response.
“I think we are all trying to move forward in having the appropriate attitude to support the law of the land – even though some of us will have to find ways to make ourselves feel comfortable with all of its impacts,” says Fuller.
Other Republicans criticized Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris for not defending Prop 8 in court. They say the ruling could set a precedent for future initiatives being overturned for political reasons.
People crowded into Sacramento’s LGBT Center in Midtown early this mornig to await the decision. The ruling was met with cheers, tears and jubilation.
For Aaron Carruthers and his husband Keith, the decision allows them to celebrate their marriage more completely. The couple had a commitment ceremony in 1995 and were legally marreid in San Fransico before Prop 8 was passed. But Carruthers says it’s always felt a bit hollow.
“It’s been an empty victory in that, until all our gay and lesibian brothers and sisters could get married, we didn’t really rejoice in the fact that we could get married too,” he says.
Carruthers and his husband watched the decision come down with their 12-year-old son. He says, for his son, this is just the world catching up with the views the younger generation already has.
“What happened in the Supreme Court today is just how they already view the world,” Carruthers says.
But not everyone welcomes the ruling. Randy Thomasson is President of SaveCalifornia.com, an anti-gay marriage organization. He says gay marriage should not be considerd a civil rights issue.
"People inherit unchangeable characteristics like their race and ethnicity, but homosexuality is not inherited,"Thomasson said. "Science and biology confirm this and thousands of former 'gays and lesbians' who have changed their behavior also prove this fact. Therefore, homosexuality is not a 'civil right' for marriage or anything else."
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The high court has overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act. It has also returned California's Proposition 8 to a lower appellate court with orders to dismiss it, saying petitioners didn't have standing to bring the challenge.
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A pair of 5-4 Supreme Court rulings struck down as unconstitutional a federal law denying benefits to same-sex couples and cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California.