May 15th, 2008
03:23 PM ET

California justices reject same-sex marriage ban

You can read the entire California Supreme Court ruling here
You can read the entire California Supreme Court ruling here

Augie Martin
CNN Supervising Producer

The ruling by the California Supreme Court this morning was one of the most hotly anticipated rulings in recent memory. This ruling essentially brought to a close the debate over the legality of same-sex marriages in California. The battle all began in 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom surprised everyone by issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples in 2004. In the see-saw legal battles that followed, the issue seemed to polarize many, and it seemed no one was void of a view on the matter.

The crux of the issue is whether or not the State of California has the authority to legalize same sex marriage. The ruling today, following oral arguments in March 2008 in front of what is generally considered a conservative Supreme Court of California, was at first not quite as straight forward as the issue itself. The ruling began by stating essentially that the same-sex marriages conducted by the City and County of San Francisco were unlawful, but then went on to overturn the ban on same sex marriage in California. Essentially, past same-sex marriages we’re deemed unlawful, but could proceed going forward.

It would probably be fair to say that this ruling was met with a mild degree of surprise, if only because previous rulings seem to have generally gone against permitting same sex marriages in California.

With the legality question now settled, and opportunities to appeal exhausted, a few thoughts come to mind going forward.

Will the State of California once again serve as a bellwether for the rest of the nation? Certainly one would think not, at least in the most conservative parts of country. However, we’ve seen California in the past be an impetus for adoption in other states of its groundbreaking legislation, including on such topics as automobile emissions standards and medical marijuana.

Will this ruling now lead to a flood of same-sex marriages once again, as was the case in February 2004? One can only think that there are probably plenty of same sex couples who would like to have their annulled marriages once again made official.

Read more on this story...

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But once again, for better or worse, San Francisco is in the limelight of the national focus.

Filed under: Same-Sex Marriage
soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. Gen

    What next people that want to marry their pets will begin asking for their voice to be heard. This in no way advances societal values in America.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  2. RP

    The equal protection clause was NEVER meant to mean that all laws treat all people equally. If this were so, then any law that discriminated against MINORS based on their age would violate the Equal Protection Clause. No one would argue seriously that age restrictions such as those surrounding drivers' license are violations of the EPC.

    The EPC of the US Constitution has nothing to do with redefining marriage.

    This decision is destined to have a short half-life. It will be overturned by a CA constitutional amendment this fall.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  3. Concerned Citizen

    Right this is really important. I think we should cut to a jag commercial.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  4. RP

    Casey Morris, please do not accuse others of ignorance. The decision is over 90 pages long. Have you read it? I have. The decision states that history and tradition alone cannot justify a ban on gay marriage. However, in footnote 52, the majority conclusorily states that past court decisions (ie history) have stated that polygamy and incest are antithetical to American "culture." So the court says history cannot justify a ban on gay marriage but history alone justifies a ban on incest and gay marriage. Putting the court's broad strokes of Footnote 52 aside, the court's ruling paves the way for a gay man to marry his gay son. Or for a gay man to marry his two gay sons. If it's merely a question of freedom and sexual preference, there is no reason why a gay, polygamous, incestuous marriage should not be legal.

    No need to worry. This decision will be overturned by an Amendment to the California Constitution this fall. Sadly this decision could also spell doom for the Obama campaign if the GOP can make it an issue as they did in 2004.

    Anderson, who was the gentleman who was on at the same time as David Savage?

    Chris Morris, your conundrum would be solved easily by an Amendment to the California Constitution that states marriage is between one man and one woman. Any EQ clause problems are avoided by an explicit definition by an AMENDMENT.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  5. LeonJ

    Go CA, this is a wonderful day with hopes this will fully pass and flow to the rest of the USA, keep the religion and political leaders out of it and let adults live there lives as they see fit and with whom they love. anyone who opposes this needs to check themselves and get out of other peoples faces and deal with there likely miserable lives.
    Poligamy is another story having sex with minors is is outrageous and the only reason these cults exsist is do these men can have there way with many women, children and make beieve this is OK, these are nothing else but macho freaks.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  6. Karen Geer

    Marriage is a legal contract that only works with two people who are fit to enter in to and carry out the rights and responsibilities of that contract. This ruling will not open the door to polygamy as the contract covers only two people.

    As to the nonsense that it will allow a person to legally marry a goat. This is the bizarre fantasy of people who cannot fathom the separation of church and state. Personally I wouldn't be a member of a church that sanctioned goat/human marriage.

    Show me a goat that can execute the responsibilities of the marriage contract, and we'll talk about changing the law.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  7. Herman, NY

    Anderson this does not surprise me since the Bible talks about this in Romans 1:26 &27

    "That is why God abandonded them to their shameful desires, even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men instead of having normal sexual relations with women burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved."

    May 15, 2008 at 10:43 pm |
  8. Jan Ciresi

    What a historic day! As a parent of gay children, I am so thankful that they will have their God given right to be treated as equals.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:42 pm |
  9. Gary Del Mastro

    Dan Savage definitely made the strongest case–by far.

    Same sex marriage is a matter of fairness and treating people equally. Bans against it are based on ignorance, hatred, or fear. Nothing more, nothing less.

    God put gay people on the earth just as He did straight people. He expects everyone to be treated equally. To claim any different is just plain bigoted and dishonest.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:41 pm |
  10. Karen Geer

    During the AIDS crisis of the eighties I read a news story about how the parents of very ill gay men were preventing their son's friends and lovers from visiting the patient in the hospital. These unfortunate young men died alone because their parents good not deal with their son's "lifestyle". The story mad me so angry I, a straight woman, thought "there outta be a law". Then I realized there was one. Marriage would have protected those unfortunates from dying alone. I've been fighting for same-sex marriage ever since. Today is a good, no glorious, day.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  11. Floyd-- SC

    I simply do not understand all the hoopla over this–IT IS NONE OF THE GOVERNMENTS BUSINESS–for a country that was founded on the principal of "small government" we have certainly gone a long way towards controlling every part of the citizenry's private lives. It is not my business what is going on in the house next to me and it is none of your business what I do in my house–remember your rights stop at the end of my nose and, likewise, mine stop at the end of your's.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  12. Anthony, Oregon, 14 years old

    I think this was an INCORRECT DECISION because this is "One Nation Under God," and doesn't the "Bible" say in the beginning there was Adam "male" and Eve "female"? Their was no other man or other woman to be gay with. So it is not natural is it? Finally we are not made physically for the same sex. I have no clue how people started being gay literally. Also there is no reason for any Christan to think this is moral because the "Bible" clearly says it's not.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:34 pm |
  13. Roberta Imboden

    Hey, you guys, Canada legalized gay marriage over two years ago. Look what happened. You still haven't heard of us. So, go for it. The sky will definitely not fall in.

    Roberta and Dave

    May 15, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  14. William

    Homosexuality is a CHOICE. How can you give people the RIGHT to make this choice. I don't believe that you can be GAY unless you act on it. A murderer isn't a murderer, no matter what he thinks, until he acts out and commits a murder. You choose to be GAY, why make the rest of the world accept the choices you make. Kids should not be placed in families with 2 DADS or 2 MOMS. I won't teach my children to tolerate it and that is not discrimination nor is GAY rights a Civil Right like Blacks had to take in the 1960's. Thanks for the space to share my opinion.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  15. Dave

    Anderson, when guys like Tony Perkins raise the issue of "the children" in discussion of same sex marriage, why don't you ask him why he's not working hard to ban divorces among couples with children??

    May 15, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  16. Eric J. Weisser

    I fail to see how 2 men or 2 women getting married can affect a marriage between and man and a woman. Love is love.

    How can they say same sex marriage will ruin the marriage institution? I find it funny how people can sit back and watch "The Bachelor", a reality show where strangers compete to get married for nothing more than show ratings while at the same time judging a couple who genuinely love each other.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  17. kristine

    I am a christain conservative,and believe it or not I think that todays ruling is not a bad thing. I would like to suggest however, now that the gay population can legally marry and have rights in califonia I wish they would stop the behavior that makes people uncomfortable...all of the crazy behavior at the parades and what not. I know that the majority of this population are upstanding people and deserve respect. If they are hard working americans and raising a family they should act the part.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  18. Michelle

    What's the problem? Why are people targets for discrimnation just for being themselves and refusing to conform to some social convention? The thing about society is that, in general, society as a whole plays a key role in pressuring individuals to confrom to whatever they want. Society has the power to outcast any individual, or groups of individuals, who do not act according to what everyone else is doing.

    Are we not all human beings? is it not the first ammendemtn right to freely express yourself? and is it not the 14th amendment right that gurantees that the state has to follow due process? Denying someone the right to express themselves, to express how much they love someone, regardless of gender, through marriage is unconstitutional. California is among the first of the states to recognize this, Massachussets is the first.

    And the reason the ballot measures keep getting rejected is that the majority of the voting population that votes is largely middle aged voters who tend to be a bit conservative. in order for things to change younger people need to care enough about the issues to actually make the world a better place to live in. times are changing. Voters have to change too.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  19. Mep

    Talk about economic stimulus – this is great for the economy. Marriages (and divorces, might I add) keep lots of sectors of the economy healthy and contribute to sales tax collections! We need this!

    May 15, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  20. Jason

    I guess Cali is asking for another major earhtquake.Now you might want to start moving. Another great earthquake is on the way to punish Sodom and Gomorah.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  21. Tiffany

    Thank God! I moved to this state so I could domestically partner with my girlfriend of 7 years....well now we can marry! All the more better for us!

    May 15, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  22. Jody, Alabama

    America takes another great step towards the fulfillment of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  23. Frank

    A bad day in the history of America, shame

    May 15, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  24. Peter

    I think it's ironic that the same folks who condemn same sex marriage are uncharacteristically mum when it comes to commenting on the polygamous sect that professes it's okay to for underage women in children to marry and have sex with men many times their age. What a hypocritical country.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  25. xtina, chicago

    This is just a special interest group trying to accomplish with a judicial "decree" what they couldn't accomplish at the polls.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  26. Chris C

    Something that seems to be overlooked is a comment that the California Supreme Court made at the end of its ruling. The Court stated that the Equal Protection Clause in the California Constitution requires equal treatment between gays and straights. Thus, the law requires either (1) that NOBODY in California be entitled to marriage, or (2) that gays and straights BOTH be entitled to marriage. The Supreme Court decided that Option #2 was best in line with the wishes of the people of California, and thus, it ordered marriage to be allowed between same-sex couples.

    In November, it is presumed that a proposition will qualify for the ballot defining marriage under the California Constitution as being only between one man and one woman. If that Proposition is on the ballot and passes, the Equal Protection Clause remains in effect and would still require equal treatment among gays and straights. Since the new definition of marriage would prohibit the law from recognizing gay marriages, the Equal Protection Clause would therefore compel Option #1.

    That is, under today's Supreme Court ruling, if the anticipated anti-gay-marriage proposition passes in November, NOBODY would be permitted to be married in California.

    Let's see how the "Family First" groups react to that! LOL!

    May 15, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  27. Casey Morris

    There may be those who fear this will become a republican wedge issue in November. If voters, even conservative voters, can allow themselves to get distracted from the economy and the war, then I hope that democrats will unify at last to seize the moral highground from a culture of hate to a culture of acceptance; not just relating to gays and lesbians, but also against racism and sexism. After all, waht would Jesus do?

    Well, Jesus might point out that it wasn't a liberal court who made this ruling, but a conservative one that was largely appointed by Republicans, and on this ruling specifically:

    This decision was 4-3, and three of the four people who supported marriage equality were appointed by conservative Republican governors. In fact, the Chief Justice George, in writing the opinion for the majority, was appointed by Republican governor Pete Wilson.
    The justices concurring with Republican appointed Chief Justice George were the following:
    Werdegar: Appointed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson
    Kennard: Appointed by Republican Governor George Deukmejian
    Moreno: Appointed by Democratic Governor Gray Davis
    And on the dissenting side, there were two dissenting Republican appointed justices, and one Democratic appointed dissenting (and partially concurring) opinion.
    This decision was not made by liberal activist judges. It was mostly made by , and the opinion fully written by Republican appointed justices with the common decency to recognize the real meaning of civil rights.

    Yeah, I'm thinking that Jesus would go out and let people know the truth. Feel free to follow in the ways of the Lord yourselves, folks.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  28. Casey Morris

    xtina, chicago May 15th, 2008 6:29 pm ET
    If you’re going to make same-sex marriage legal, why shouldn’t we make polygamy legal? Why should we restrict polygamists’ rights to their own sexuality?

    Uh, did you read the ruling of why the justices made this ruling?

    Try going and looking at the facts of a ruling before put your ignorance on display and annoy others.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:41 pm |
  29. Scott

    Why don't you heterosexual who oppose gay marriage stay out of it? It doesn't involve you, has nothing to do with you, and never will.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  30. spencer

    Way to go California...Maybe the rest of the nation will follow........

    May 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  31. Marc

    Fantastic news – my partner and I were married in San Francisco in 2004 – now maybe we can do it again and it will finally stay legally recognized. It is nice not to be considered second class citizens by the Great State of California. The power of love really does live...

    May 15, 2008 at 7:36 pm |
  32. BW

    A great moment in history. Makes you feel there is truly a hope in the world. Equality for ALL.

    May 15, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  33. xtina, chicago

    If you're going to make same-sex marriage legal, why shouldn't we make polygamy legal? Why should we restrict polygamists' rights to their own sexuality?

    May 15, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  34. abigail johnson

    I wonder what this will mean for immigrants? does this mean that a gay illegal immigrant married to a citizen will have the same rights to file for citizenship, as a heterosexual.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  35. Jane, Detroit, MI

    Good for California. Too long has our government been influenced by "christian" fundamentals. We are a nation of laws and liberties. Iran's government is run by a theocracy, not ours. More supreme court decisions like this are needed to strike down the religious theocrats that are trying to corrupt the American government. No place in legislature for religion. If you think it is, then your church needs to start paying taxes.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  36. Fay, CA

    But once again, for better or worse, San Francisco is in the limelight of the national focus.

    I'm very happy to hear about this ruling and hopefully most of the couples whose marriages were annulled will take the step to make them official once again. I was born in San Francisco and have always been proud of that city's progressive stance on social issues.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  37. David

    As an American by birth and Canadian by marriage to my wonderful husband of 16 years, I can only say: "Welcome to the 21st Century, America! (or California, at least)" The arguements will continue to rage as long as there are people with strong opinions on the issue, but isn't that what makes enlightened societies great? Let's finally put this worn out issue to bed and focus on the real issues, like what is actually endangering the welfare of children – poor parenting – and how we are going to manage to get food on the table, no matter whom we love!

    May 15, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  38. Carol, CA

    I've lived in California all my life- both the Bay Area and in LA – and I think this is great. I'm glad that we are an open-minded, liberal state. I couldn't live in a place that wasn't.

    Adults should be able to live their lives however, and with whomever, they choose. Same sex couples who are committed to each other should be allowed the same rights as anyone else. Whether it's called "marriage" or "civil union" or whatever, it's a matter of legal rights.

    I think that people do not completely understand the whole picture. How married couples have certain rights, insurance benefits, tax benefits, etc. that same sex couples don't have. That's not fair. I don't look at this as a sexual subject – it is a civil rights issue.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  39. cory,fl

    why is it so hard to understand that everyone thats everyone is equal under the law, this country is full of diffrent people and different views, thats why everyone is equal and no one has control over someone else or their views, we have come so far and we dont need to go back

    May 15, 2008 at 5:01 pm |
  40. Steve in DC

    It will be awhile before gay marriages are sanctioned in mainstream churches, but many Americans already choose to be married by judges and justices of the peace. In Europe, in fact, churches do not have legal authority to marry people, so church weddings are post-marriage events that take place after a visit to the town hall for the legal marriage.

    Congratulations to the people of California. Once again, they are proving to be the bell-weather of the U.S., bringing America forward into the same century as such countries as Spain, Canada, and South Africa!

    May 15, 2008 at 5:00 pm |
  41. seah ohio

    Tis a Shame. Gay is a personal choice of sexual preferences. It should not be take for anything more.

    this is a devastating blow to society.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  42. Surafel

    I don’t support same-sex marriage but they have the right to do so under the constitution. To reject some one freedom or right is un-constitutional and its outrage.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  43. Tom, NC

    This is great news!

    May 15, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  44. Kathie B

    Hurray! One step forward for America.

    There may be those who fear this will become a republican wedge issue in November. If voters, even conservative voters, can allow themselves to get distracted from the economy and the war, then I hope that democrats will unify at last to seize the moral highground from a culture of hate to a culture of acceptance; not just relating to gays and lesbians, but also against racism and sexism. After all, waht would Jesus do?

    May 15, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  45. Maritza

    great , maybe cats and dogs can get married now to.


    May 15, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  46. Kayli, KY

    This is fantastic news! It's a great step forward for civil rights and equality. Hopefully, other states will follow this trend.
    One think about this blog piece really struck a chord- the line, "One can only think that there are probably plenty of same sex couples who would like to have their annulled marriages once again made official."
    "One can only think," "probably," "would like!" There was such a strange ease about that sentence!
    I can't help but think that if the phrase "same sex" were taken out, you'd have a piece people would be up in arms about, angry with the lack of outrage regarding any kind of nullification of a heterosexual marriage.
    The sooner people put their prejudices behind them, the better. Same-sex relationships are in no way less meaningful, legitimate, or worthy of legal protection than their heterosexual counterparts.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  47. Janet, American in Canada

    Good Day for those in California! Everyone has to right to respect and happiness in their life! When two adults consent to be happy and married, they should have that right!
    If religion teaches there is but only ONE GOD, and that ONE GOD made everything on Heaven and Earth Equally. Then what God makes and joins together, let not any man/woman tear apart!

    May 15, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  48. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Go California!!! Now if only the rest of the nation would be so intelligent as to realize that two people in love deserve the same rights, privileges, and courtesies no matter what their gender preference may be.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
  49. Cindy

    No I don't see this ruling changing anything at all in the rest of the country. California is one of the most liberal states. Not many states are as liberal or will be as liberal any time soon. Definitely not any in the Bible belt or where the law of the land revolves around religion.

    May 15, 2008 at 3:54 pm |
  50. EJ

    Great decision!

    May 15, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
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