The California Supreme Court will issue its ruling on gay marriage this morning, Thursday, May 15, 2008, at 10 AM Pacific Standard Time, 1 PM GayPatriot Blog Time.
While most gay activists are optimistic the court will require the state to recognize same-sex marriages, I’m not so sure that ruling would be a good thing. Proponents of an amendment to amend the state constitution to recognize as marriage only unions between one man and one woman have gathered enough signatures to put their proposal on the fall ballot. This ruling could give them added impetus to pass their proposal.
After state supreme courts (Hawai’i and Massachusetts) attempted to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions, opponents of gay marriage succeeded in placing referenda on state ballots to define marriage as one man and one woman. Citizens in those states responded by passing these bills by large margins.
But, when the Washington and New York State Supreme Courts did not rule in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages, the impetus for such referenda began to dry up. State referenda in the months following those rulings saw ever smaller margins of victory. In 2006, such an initiative passed in conservative South Dakota with only 52% of the vote while a more draconian one was defeated in Arizona.
Advocates of gay marriage may bemoan a ruling which maintains the current definition, but they shouldn’t be so glum. A defeat at the state Supreme Court will make it easier to defeat the proposal slated for this fall’s Golden State ballot. A ruling mandating recognition of same-sex marriage could lead to backlash as it would energize social conservatives who support the traditional definition of marriage as well as other Californians who don’t believe courts should define marriage.
And these citizens have already weighed in on this matter in 2000 when they voted for Proposition 22. If advocates of gay marriage had respect for the democratic process, they would go back to them and ask them to repeal this proposal. They’ll have a chance this fall, a chance which they wanted to avoid (by attempting to harass those gathering signatures). Their decision to go through the courts may make their goal more difficult to realize.