As I write this, I am certain that people are gathered, as they were last night, at the Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher Street, in New York City, to celebrate the decision of the Ninth Circuit’s court of appeals that declared California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Tonight, the celebrants will have an additional reason to cheer: Washington State’s legislature has just passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriages and Governor Christine Gregoire has announced that she will proudly sign the bill into law. [Here]
Governor Gregoire’s statement reflects her pride and joy: [Here]
This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn’t be more proud. With today’s vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love. We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.
I commend our House members... Our legislators showed courage, respect, and professionalism. I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”
Gregoire’s expansive words contrast starkly with the shoddy discriminatory intent of California’s Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriages in California. (And we must remember that Prop 8 slammed shut the brief window when same-sex marriages were legally performed in California.) The appeals process, in effect, “froze” any further gay marriages until the issue was decided and the “stay” will remain in force while its defenders decide whether to appeal the recent court’s 3-judge decision.
If the conservative proponents decide to appeal the decision, there are two possible roads forward for them and they have 14 days to decide how to proceed. They could petition the whole Ninth Circuit court for a rehearing. If this appeal is granted, a full eleven-judge panel would be convened to rehear the case. We are told that this process would take an additional six months to a year. [Here]
The alternative would be to appeal directly to the Supreme Court. If that is the road taken, 4 of the 9 Supremes would have to agree to hear the case. Supreme Court watchers are saying that if the Court agrees to take up the case, it is probable that there will be a split decision with the deciding vote most likely to be Justice Anthony Kennedy’s. Justice Kennedy, while considered a conservative, has taken a position against singling out specific groups for discriminatory rulings. He did so in Lawrence v. Texas which struck down Texas’s sodomy laws and in a Colorado case which had left homosexuals unprotected against housing and job discrimination. [Here]
Most court watchers tell us that the current case is clearly a state of California’s messy history of obvious discrimination--first granting marriage rights and then yanking them away by a state-wide constitutional referendum. Whether the Prop 8 folks will appeal to the full Ninth Circuit court or to the Supreme Court. we should know within two weeks.
In the meanwhile, we hope that courageous state legislators in other states will emulate those in Washington and New York who faced down conservative bigots and thus unlocked the doors of marriage for loving, same-sex couples, such as my partner and me.