Final step?

Marriage equality advocates hope the US Supreme Court definitively ends the long quest for justice

|
(4)
Attorney General Kamala Harris and City Attorney Dennis Herrera discuss the Supreme Court decision.

steve@sfbg.com

President Barack Obama is fond of reciting the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." On the issue of marriage equality, that arc looks more like a zig-zagging path that began when San Francisco unilaterally began issuing marriage license to same-sex couples just before Valentines Day in 2004 and ending — its backers hope — in June 2013 with the US Supreme Court affirming the basic constitutional right of everyone to marry whomever they want and to have those marriages treated equally under the law.

"We've seen the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who has watched court injunctions blocking marriages by the city, the California Supreme Court ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution, the 2008 vote amending the constitution through Proposition. 8, and the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that the measure violated federal equal protection standards.

Yet few officials or legal experts are willing to predict with any certainty that this long and winding road will end with a definitive conclusion in June. In fact, Herrera and other same-sex marriage supporters expressed disappointment Dec. 7 when the Supreme Court announced it had decided to review the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

Letting the ruling in Perry v. Brown stand would have re-legalized same-sex marriages in California, which would have joined the nine other states and the District of Columbia as places where it's legal for gays and lesbians to get hitched. Yet in taking the case — along with U.S. v. Windsor, which challenges the Defense of Marriage Act and its prohibition on recognizing the inheritance law and tax code rights of same-sex spouses — the court could issue a landmark civil rights ruling striking down all laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.

That's the hope of California Attorney General Kamala Harris. "Are we a country that is true to its word and true to its spirit, or not?" was how Harris framed the question at a Dec. 7 press conference with Herrera. She focused on the basic equal protection argument and the need to "stand for the principle that we are equal and we will be treated that way."

Herrera, who had just gotten off a conference call with lead attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies and the rest of the advocates who are defending same-sex marriage, told reporters that the main goal was a broad ruling: "Ted Olson has made it clear he's going to make a very broad argument." Yet the Supreme Court could also issue a narrow ruling, extending the twisty path of this issue.

As for reading the tea leaves, Deputy City Attorney Terry Stewart, who has litigated the city's position since the beginning, said she doesn't think anyone knows how this case is going to be resolved — not even the Supreme Court justices themselves. "I don't think they know, to be honest with you," Stewart said when asked whether taking the Perry and DOMA cases indicate a willingness to finally settle the broad question of whether same-sex couples should be treated equally to heterosexual couples.

She noted that the Supreme Court waited until the last minute — its decision had initially been expected on Nov. 30 — to decide to take the cases: "They took a long time, so clearly they're wrestling with it."

Comments

I have to commend the Guardian for giving Gavin any credit at all, but in this case you're giving him way too much. Rather than "start[ing] us down this path," Newsom's courageous act followed several others, starting in the US with the Hawaii Supreme Court's 1993 ruling that that state's marriage laws were discriminatory, followed by Vermont's Supreme Court in 1999 and then Massachusetts' Supreme Court in 2003. It's true that the Hawaii and Vermont rulings ended up resulting in civil unions, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling virtually ensured that gay marriage would become legal in that state. In February, when San Francisco started issuing licenses, it was clear that there would be no civil union option in Massachusetts and that when the court-imposed deadline of May 17 was reached, gay marriage would be legal. Finally, while Newsom's action was noble and definitely the "right thing" morally, is was fatally flawed from a legal perspective: a court case by a couple deprived of the right to marry was a much stronger case than that by a city deprived of the right to issue licenses; it's no accident that the case that eventually won in the Cal. Supreme Court was one brought by those deprived of their rights, not that brought by SF after its ability to issue licenses was challenged.

Posted by akboognish on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 10:00 am

Same sex marriage is a turd that has been clinging to the queer political sphincter for 25 years now, growing cold and refusing to plop into the toilet.

Like gays in the military, same sex marriage is the shared wealthy gay and hetero vision of what a gay agenda should look like.

Those capable of filing lawsuits did so in the 1980s to start the marriage train wreck down the tracks long before there was any sort of majority support within the queer communities to prioritize that.

Then the heteros began to get involved and lead the parade, leaving us to clean up their droppings. First Clinton promises gays in the military in a glib comment on MTV and then it became "our" priority. Then Clinton went on to pass DOMA.

A few years later, after barely winning election, Newsom, an openly heterosexual politician, was advised to throw a boner to D8 in the form of authorizing same sex marriage.

This was pitched before there was majority support within the queer communities that marriage was a priority and long before popular support could withstand a constitutional amendment challenge.

So Newsom's action, apparently advised by Herrera, led to yet another defeat at the ballot box. For every heroic painting of Newsom, there are many more queers who were bashed as electoral defeat signaled weakness and lowered the barriers to bashing.

What I find interesting is the prurience with which heteros are fixated on the most conservative elements of the gay agenda, marriage and military, often more so than the gays directly involved.

The spectacle of it all, as evidenced by the live video stream of Washington's nuptials, belies the fact that every day, gays and lesbians out of sight in the fly over are denied work and housing simply for who we are.

By the numbers, 1.5% of us would join the military, yet that was our first real federal victory. Hate crimes don't count.

By the numbers, 15% of us would get married, yet that is the second priority.

By the numbers, 99% of us must compete in the housing and job markets, yet those two big ticket civil rights matters are stuck in neutral for a variety of reasons, hetero, homo and trans centered.

This idea that civil rights are best achieved going from most narrow to broadest is novel. There is no precedent in civil rights history for this.

Contrast this with the notion that LGB should not get civil rights until T can garner support and you can see the dysfunctional and self defeating schizophrenia that dominates contemporary queer political theory.

LGBT will not be truly free until our political agenda is self-determined democratically.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 10:24 am

wasn't replaced with "Don't Serve, Don't Kill."

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... Herrrera is DISAPPOINTED ... take a NUMBER ... what about my DISAPPOINTMENT after I went to EMERGENCY after my soulmate died and was denied by the city. Go to http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com to see the paperwork and FALSE TESTIMONY that had my case thrown out of FEDERAL COURT (C02-3485PJH) only to sign a confession settlement agreement with the OFFICE of INSPECTOR GENERAL admitting fault and guilt OVER BREAKING FEDERAL LAW ... then the city, DPH and the city attorney left me for DEAD. Yes, the concerned Herrera over EQUAL RIGHTS, JUSTICE, etc ... where is my EQUAL RIGHT to CONTRITION and RESTITUTION after a SIGNED CONFESSION, where is my JUSTICE after they had my case thrown out of FEDERAL COURT with "TESTILYING?" Let the GAMES continue ...

Anyway, it started ALL over again ... go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo to see. Shall I show you WHAT I HAVE RECEIVED from the city attorney so far? Go to youtube ( Jason Garza ) to see what I got from the sheriff, da and sfpd.

Disappointed ... take a number ... I as a GAY person will be MORE DISAPPOINTED if it DOES NOT GO before the COURT as I would like to know where I stand as a citizen, human being and GOD's creation.

As I had told GAYS all my life ... those seeking to deny, repress and judge ... should have their INHUMANITY CALLED ... what, 10% of the population is gay ... will they PUT 30 million gays in jail if they strike or revolt against the oppression?

Are they going to put EVERY POT SMOKING individual in WASHINGTON state in jail?

Where is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT on this? Where was it during my constitutional rights to LIFE, LIBERTY and the pursuit of HAPPINESS ? Oh, that is right I've had NO LIFE, NO HEALTH CARE. NO DAY in COURT http://www.tortdeform.com/archives/2007/07/access_denied_no_health_care_... .

Go to http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com to see the city attorney paperwork and know how far the city attorney will play the propaganda part ... we care, we tried, we are concerned ... until they fail or are busted ... look at my case ... realize after the settlement did they come to me to offer CONTRITION, RESTITUTION or even BASIC HUMANITY ... HOWEVER, I AM NOT HOPEFUL they will EVER DO the "RIGHT THING" since there is NO CONSEQUENCE ... does it remind you of priests and politicians? Promise the world, deliver nothing and when it fails ... not responsible. Sort of what I am going through with the Department of Public Health ... all show, no substance and when exposed NO CONSEQUENCE ...

SO DISAPPOINTMENT I am used to, lies, deceit and INHUMANITY I am used to also.

Keep DRINKING the KOOL-AIDE. Oh and while were at it ... let's ask Mr. Wiener about case # 11048 from the SUNSHINE TASK FORCE that found him guilty of "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" ... yes, look over her (see how much I care and am doing) and NOT over here (where I was busted, where I voted against Ross while under suspicion of "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT") ... maybe we can ask ETHICS since they changed the STANDARD for ROSS will they re-open all the "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" cases they failed on ... we can start with my NURSE RATCH case http://www.tortdeform.com/archives/2007/07/access_denied_no_health_care_... or http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/master.html .

"Telling the TRUTH during TIMES of UNIVERSAL DECEIT becomes a REVOLUTIONARY ACT." George Orwell

I know you do NOT believe me ... a signed confession ... this guy is mental ... well here it is http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html ... and I still sit here ... NO CONTRITION, NO RESTITUTION, NO JUSTICE, NO HUMANITY however reams upon reams from everyone about how much they care, etc. BEWARE false prophets, false words, and false deeds ...

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Dec. 14, 2012 @ 7:34 am