SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–The California Supreme Court ordered a halt to San Francisco’s same-sex “marriages” March 11, giving conservatives a significant victory in the nationwide battle over its legalization.
Later that night, Massachusetts lawmakers moved a step closer to sending a constitutional marriage amendment to voters, passing a compromise amendment on the third reading by a vote of 121-77. Facing a midnight deadline, legislators then recessed until March 29, when the amendment must pass one more time to complete the first step of a three-step process.
The second step would involve its passage in the next session; the third step is a say by the voters, which would be 2006 at the earliest.
But California and Massachusetts weren’t the only fronts in the ongoing legal battle. On March 12 Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said in an opinion that same-sex “marriage” is illegal in the state, although he added that the Oregon Supreme Court likely would find current state law unconstitutional, assuming it heard a case. Officials in Multnomah County, Ore., have been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“They should apply the existing law as the attorney general has recommended to us,” Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said at a news conference. “It is still the law of this state. There has been no Supreme Court decision that’s definitive on this issue.”
The Massachusetts amendment would ban same-sex “marriage” while legalizing civil unions. It is a compromise between those wanting to ban same-sex “marriage” and those wanting to give same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage. The ruling by the state’s high court legalizing homosexual “marriage” is scheduled to go into effect in mid-May.
“We must trust the people to answer this question, whether they uphold the Goodridge decision or whether they reject it and replace it with something else,” Rep. John Rogers, a Democrat who supported the compromise amendment, said on the floor. He supported the compromise amendment.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, is considering asking the Massachusetts high court to suspend its ruling until state voters have a say, The Boston Globe reported. But even if the court declines, Romney’s lawyers are considering other options, although they have not been specific as to what they would entail. Romney may make his announcement in a nationwide television broadcast in the coming weeks, The Globe reported.
“On an issue as important as the definition of marriage the governor is not going to run and hide,” his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the newspaper.
The California court ruling was the first blow of the day to same-sex “marriage.” By a unanimous 7-0 vote the court ordered the city to “enforce and apply” existing state laws that limit marriage to one man and one woman.
Significantly, the California court said it was not dealing with the constitutional arguments of same-sex “marriage” raised by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Instead, the court said it was limiting the case to whether Newsom and other officials had the authority to issue licenses based on their own interpretation of the state constitution.
“Pending this court’s determination of this matter or further order of this court,” the court stated, “respondents are directed to enforce and apply the provisions of Family Code sections 300, 301, 308.5, and 355 without regard to respondents’ personal view of the constitutionality of such provisions, and to refrain from issuing marriage licenses or certificates not authorized by such provisions.”
The court said it would hear oral arguments in the case in either May or June.
It stayed two related cases that were pending in lower courts. However, the court said that the stay does “not preclude the filing” of a separate lawsuit in lower courts challenging existing marriage laws.
The California Supreme Court’s order was in reaction to two cases: Lockyer v. City and County of San Francisco, and Lewis v. Alfaro. The first one was brought by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the second by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of three San Francisco citizens.
“This means the rule of law is restored in California today. It’s exactly what we sought from the court,” Alliance Defense Fund attorney Robert Tyler said in a statement.
In Boston, Massachusetts legislators debated the issue from 2 p.m. Eastern until nearly midnight, touching on everything from religion to civil rights. Some compared the struggle of homosexuals to the struggle of blacks, but at least one black legislator, Shirley Owens-Hicks, disagreed. She supported the compromise amendment.
“I respectfully disagree with those who claim that an affirmation of the existing definition of marriage represents a violation of civil rights,” Owens-Hicks, a Democrat, said. “… [I]f gays and lesbians were ever forced to sit or stand at the back of the bus, I would certainly stand up for their civil rights. I’m talking about experiences that I have had and the experiences that others like myself have had, who have spawned the civil rights movement.”
Owens-Hicks recounted how she was raised in Alabama, the daughter of a Baptist minister.
“Some would suggest that faith has no place in the statehouse, that when we enter these walls we should leave our faith at the door,” she said. “Well, I don’t know about others, but my faith is what has gotten me in this door, and I’m not going to abandon it because I am here.”
The convention is a reaction to last year’s Goodridge decision by the Massachusetts high court legalizing same-sex “marriage.”
Some described same-sex “marriage” legalization as a matter of fairness.
“I worked too hard to get this job and to stay in this job to vote in a fashion that tells an entire segment of my population that they’re different and they’re not accepted,” Rep. Theodore Speliotis, a Democrat, said.
Some traditionalists feared that same-sex “marriage” supporters had strategized to vote for the amendment this year with plans of killing it in the next session. Rep. Philip Travis, a Democrat, challenged everyone to vote with their heart.
“I want to see you be truthful on this amendment, on this reading, and I want to see you be truthful on the next reading if this amendment survives,” he said. “… It’s really not fair to take two sides of the issue.”
Rep. John Lepper, a Republican, said early in the day that he opposed the compromise amendment.
“You can’t on the one hand state that marriage is a unique institution and then give equal and all benefits entirely to civil unions without expecting that you’re going to have to put this back before the court,” he said. “And what court are we putting it before? We’re putting it before the [Supreme Judicial Court], the court that gave us the Goodridge opinion, the court that marched into the legislative arena, the court, which in my estimation, has no business there.”
Travis and Lepper both voted against the amendment the first two times before voting for it on the third vote — presumably to keep the convention going.
The amendment that passed reads: “It being the public policy of this Commonwealth to protect the unique relationship of marriage, only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Massachusetts. Two persons of the same sex shall have the right to form a civil union if they meet the requirements set forth by law for marriage.
“Civil unions for same sex couples are established hereunder and shall provide entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities that are afforded to couples married under Massachusetts law. All laws applicable to marriage shall also apply to civil unions. This Article is self-executing, but the General Court may enact laws not inconsistent with anything herein contained to carry out the purpose of this Article.”
The General Court is the term used for the Massachusetts legislature.
For more information on the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at: