CA Supremes Say No to Gay Marriage—For Now At Least


The California Supreme Court has stopped gay marriages in the Golden State. It promises to make a decision "within months," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The grounds for a decision that will make clear whether San Francisco's gay marriages are legal?

The court sidestepped the issue of whether state law, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, is constitutional. Instead, the court will review only the narrower question—pressed by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and organizations opposing same-sex marriage—of whether San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom can ignore the state law if he considers it unconstitutional.

The stay doesn't affect the more than 4,000 weddings performed under Newsom's decree since Feb. 12. But those marriages would be nullified, if the court rules that Newsom lacked the authority to defy the law on constitutional grounds.

That depends on whether the city is covered by a 1978 state constitutional provision requiring administrative agencies to follow the law as written until an appellate court declares it unconstitutional. The city contends the constitutional restriction applies only to state agencies—a position that looks shaky after Thursday's order, according to some veteran court observers.

Whole thing here.

Reason Online regular Jonathan Rauch, who has an excellent new book called Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America out. It's a great case for gay marriage, from just about every conceivable angle (we'll be excerpting it in the June issue). His latest column on the topic is here.

Rauch argues for a state-by-state, decentralized process by which political and social units try out different approaches to gay marriage–essentially, he argues for a federalist approach to gay marriage. This, he says, will prevent gay marriage from becoming as divisive an issue as abortion in the early '70s, when state experiments where undone by a nationally imposed judicial decision.

It's an attractive argument, made by a great writer and someone who, as a gay, partnered man, is writing from the heart as well as the head. Yet it strikes me as morally, socially, and political wrong that gays and lesbians who want to marry should have to wait years to get hitched in their home states. Social consensus–and social change–take time, but the fundamental injustice that gays can't marry legally remains a black mark on America until the situation is changed in every state.

Update: Here's a story about Massachusetts lawmakers' "preliminary approval yesterday to a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but allow civil unions."

And here's Andrew Sullivan's smart take on recent goings-on re: this topic.