A Word in Edgewise

Oh, frabjous day, Callooh, Callay! In the biggest news story since California’s 1948 Perez v. Sharp decision, the California State Supreme Court, on May 15, in a 4-3 decision, ruled marriage is a constitutional right that same-sex couples cannot be denied.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, author of the ruling, wrote, “Limiting the designation of marriage to a union ‘between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute”—noting that all California couples had a “basic civil right” to marry “without regard to their sexual orientation.”Others, less than glad, added their bit as well:

“Christian Coalition of America Vows to Succeed in Overturning the Abominable Decision Yesterday by 4 Judicial Tyrants on California’s Top Court in November’s Referendum on Banning Homosexual ‘Marriage.’”

“Christian Coalition Urges Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama to Condemn the California Supreme Court’s Homosexual ‘Marriage’ 4-3 Narrow Decision.”

Not unexpectedly, the White House responded: “President Bush has always believed marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. It’s unfortunate when activist judges continue to seek to redefine marriage by court order—without regard for the will of the people.”

So, the vorpal blade may have inflicted only a flesh wound. Still, the forcefully framed, 30,000-word document addresses and dismisses many of the standard objections to same-sex marriage, while its very existence adroitly echoes to 1948, and the “will of the people” argument used by George W. Bush, John McCain, and their ilk.

Ten years after California struck down its last miscegenation (mixed-race marriage) laws, and nine years before the US Supreme Court struck down the remaining ones in 1967 through Virginia v. Loving, a 1958 Gallup Poll revealed that the “will of the people”—94 percent—ran pro-mixed-race marriage. (Alabama, in fact, kept its statute symbolically on the books till 2000.)

Some writers have pointed out that the federal government still bars homosexuals from some 1,100 protections granted to heterosexual couples.

Yet, the strong voice from California high court asserts, “Our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation.”

French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) remarked of Americans, “One hears people say that it is inherent in the habits and nature of democracies to change feelings and thoughts at every moment in the great democracy on the other side of the ocean. What struck me most in the United States was the difficulty experienced in getting an idea, once conceived, out of the head of the majority.”

The Jabberwock, the Jubjub bird, and the frumious Bandersnatch still roam the tulgey wood. But California has taken a huge step. Barring a stay of the court’s order, gays and lesbians will be able to legally marry in California in 30 days.

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