The decision on Perry v. Schwarzenegger has come down, and the ruling is that Proposition 8 (declaring that California only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman) is unconstitutional.
Which is hardly going to be the end of this; the case will end up in front of the Supreme Court eventually. But it’s good news for equal rights.
I’ve been following the court case off and on. If you haven’t, you really ought to take a look — because it’s astonishing, how incoherent the Prop 8 defense is. The incoherence starts with the proposition itself, I suppose; California only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman as valid, except for those same-sex marriages performed prior to the enactment of Prop 8. Why do those get exempted? Because the odds of it passing would have dropped precipitously if its supporters had tried to invalidate thousands of existing marriages. Then you get things like the motion the defense filed before this decision, trying to delay enforcement of the decision (which tells you they knew how it would go), wherein they claim in a single document both that “Same-sex relationships […] neither advance nor threaten this interest [of procreation] in the way that opposite-sex relations do,” and that “Not only would redefining marriage to include same-sex couples eliminate California’s ability to provide special recognition and support to those relationships that uniquely further the vital procreative interests marriage has traditionally served, it would indisputably change the public meaning of marriage.” So which is it, guys? Does same-sex marriage threaten the procreative function of marriage, or not? And that’s not even touching the point that we don’t exactly require fertility tests before letting people tie the knot; as the judge overseeing the case pointed out, he recently married a pair of geriatrics long past their procreative days.
To quote the decision, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.” That’s the coherent thread running through all the defense’s arguments. Every time they were pressed to cite evidence that same-sex marriage would cause material harm to children, the institution of heterosexual marriage, or the fabric of society itself, they failed — and tripped over a mountain of contradiction in doing so. You can cite religious arguments against the idea, and then we can have a theological debate, but when it comes to state and federal law, there is no defensible basis for this discrimination.