12 June 2008

Marriage Equality, California Style


Beginning June 17th, county clerks in California can begin issuing marriage licenses and performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, thanks to the recent California Supreme Court ruling that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, making California the second state in the US where marriage is legally recognized for same sex couples. In addition, the California Supreme Court refused requests to stay the decision pending the outcome of the November elections. This is important to me for a number of reasons:
First, I am a native Californian, and it makes me feel proud that my home state is taking steps to eradicate discrimination against g/l/b/t/q people.
Second, California is a trend setting state. By this I mean that historically speaking, what happens in California in regards to civil law tends to have a far-reaching impact; it spreads across the rest of the United States, not necessarily quickly, but consistently, and occassionally with the help of the United States Supreme Court.
Third, in November, thanks to dubious efforts by religious conservative groups, California voters will go to the polls and vote on a proposed amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only. Because the Supreme Court refused to stay their decision, Californians will have the opportunity to see the results of same-sex marriage (or as I like to call it - marriage - calling it anything other than what it is contributes to the notion that it isn't equality for a basic civil right we are asking for, but a special right or privilege in addition to the rights we already have, and that is a lie) and recognize that, just like Massachussetts, marriage equality will have absolutely no negative impact on society. In fact, the positive economic impact on the state of California is expected to exceed 600 million dollars over the course of the next 3 years. I feel fairly confident that the amendment will be defeated.
Fourth, unlike Massachusetts, anyone from any state can get married in California. It might not be recognized in their own state, but lack of current state recognition does not make the marriage any less meaningful or valid in the eyes of the couple, their friends and family, or to God, for that matter.
I admit that I have not always been much of a marriage equality activist in my lifetime. It was never really that important to me, as I never thought I would truly want to be with someone for the rest of my life. My view of relationships was this - people come into your life for a variety of reasons, stay awhile and then leave when there is nothing more you have to offer each other. Why would you want to muddy the water with marriage, making it more of a hassle to make a clean break? This is how I used to think, until I met Angie, and we started dating. Now, a year and a half later, we own a house together and suddenly I find myself looking at her sometimes and thinking things like 'This is the woman I'm going to be with for the rest of my life' and 'What would happen to her if something bad happened to me?' I want her to be protected, the same way I want to be protected. When we bought our house, we made the decision to go ahead and have a lawyer draw up our wills, powers of attorney for healthcare and general decisions, etc...$1200 for some documents that provide us about 1/4 of the rights and protections a straight couple gets just as soon as they sign on the dotted line of their $35 marriage license. When I forked over that money, I recognized what g/l/b/t/q people have been fighting for...equal protection under the law...and I deserve it just as much as my straight counterparts.
I'm going to marry Angie next year. We are planning a religious ceremony in Georgia through the United Church of Christ, which is open and affirming, and recognizes marriage equality, even thought the state does not. Then we plan to have a civil wedding in either British Columbia, Canada or California, so we will have legal recognition of our marriage, at least in those states who currently recognize it. Once again, lack of recognition on my state's part does not make my marriage any less meaningful or valid to me or to Angie, and we feel confident that it will be recognized in all states in our lifetime.

1 comment:

Mistral said...

I just want to share some images made by a member of my site that relates to this. Hopefully they can be put to good use by your readers.

http://triskelionsociety.com/tssmain/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid=85&func=select&id=6