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Proposition 8 case reaches federal level

US NEWS PROP8 2 CC

(Courtesy MCT)

Over the past decade, seven state courts have ruled that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is a violation of the state constitution. In 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court voted to allow gay marriage, with Chief Justice Margaret Marshall commenting that the Commonwealth’s constitution “forbids the creation of second class citizens” and that “the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one’s choice.”

Across the country in California, many residents were allowed the same rights for a brief period, beginning in 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials began issuing same-sex marriage certificates, which allowed more than 4,000 couples to marry in the area.

That changed during the state elections of 2008, however, when a constitutional amendment titled Proposition 8 was passed in California. The amendment added the clause “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” to the state constitution.

Following the passage of Proposition 8, protesters quickly organized against the amendment, filing suit to block it in court. On May 26, 2009, the Supreme Court of California defended the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban in a 4 to 3 vote. The judges also decided at that point in time to allow the 18,000 gay couples wed prior to the ban to remain officially married.

On Jan. 11, a case called Perry v. Schwarzenegger was brought to the federal court level at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the ninth district, and will decide whether to allow Californians the right to marriage, regardless of gender.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger is a federal case filed by two same-sex couples, Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir of Alameda County and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Los Angeles, who were denied the right to marry by county registrars, against the state of California, and will decide whether Proposition 8 violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which declares, “No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.”

This case has been brought to the U.S. district court-level by lawyers Theodore Boutrous, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, the latter two being best known for representing opposing parties in the 2000 election case between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Representatives for both sides called historians, political scientists and other experts to the stand for testimony, including University of Massachusetts Professor Lee Badgett.

 

A professor of economics, Badgett has studied gender and sexuality issues since the early 90s. This past summer her book, “Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men,” was published, and has provided much of the current statistical and analytical data on sexual orientation discrimination and family policy. During the trial, Badgett cited statistics from Massachusetts, a state that has allowed gay marriage since 2004, to show that divorce rates of heterosexual couples have not been affected.

Badgett became involved in the trial after Boies and Olson requested she speak on her recently published works. Her book documents the economic benefits of same-sex marriage, noting that “if you don’t let gay couples get married, they don’t spend money on weddings and other expenses. It is a loss to the state.”

Badgett long ago became involved in the initiative for equal marriage rights, and the issue has deep roots in her own life.

“I was always someone interested in the civil rights movements,” she said. “I thought that the issue of the general principle of equality is one that our country is built on.”

As a lesbian herself, the issue of equal marriage rights is personal to Badgett.

“Being a lesbian made me closer to the issue, but even if I hadn’t been, I still believe that I’d be involved anyways,” she said.

Other activists for LGBT rights believe that the issue of gay marriage affects everyone, regardless of which coast one lives on.

Gary Lapon, the leader of the Western Massachusetts Equality Across America group, feels the results of this case could easily affect other states.

“If Proposition 8 is overturned in the courts, it would set an important precedent,” said Lapon. “It would be a big step forward, possibly something approaching a Brown v. Board of Education decision depending on the wording of the decision.”

Lapon also fears the inverse decision and its potential national implications.

“If Proprosition 8 stands, we could lose marriage equality here,” he said. “And as long as the Defense of Marriage Act stands, same sex couples are denied over 1000 federal benefits that are granted to married heterosexual couples, so marriage here is still separate and unequal.”

One option states have considered and sometimes trended towards is civil unions. These allow for same-sex couples to have the legal benefits of marriage, but aim to gain more support by not using the word “marriage.” Yet for many, to be allowed anything less than the rights of a heterosexual married couple is not true equality.

 

“A civil union for gay couples, while heterosexual couples can marry, is still enshrining inequality into the law,” said Lapon.

Such opinions have been documented in Badgett’s data. Citing Massachusetts statistics from 2004, Badgett said, “37 percent of gay and lesbian couples got married in the first year. In states that only allow civil unions, the numbers are between 10 and 12 percent.”

Testimony in the trial concluded Jan. 27, although the battle between the two sides is far from over. Both continue to present their points through the media as they await the decision of Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker. A decision is expected to come at its earliest in March, though no definite date has been set. Walker, who tried the case without a jury, stated in a press conference that he would study the evidence and other briefs presented by both sides before hearing final arguments.

Even after Walker reads his decision, it is expected the case will continue until it reaches the United States Supreme Court.

Michelle Williams can be reached at mnwillia@student.umass.edu.

Comments
5 Responses to “Proposition 8 case reaches federal level”
  1. Ms Williams,

    Great article! It seems that marriage equality will eventually be inevitable, based on the strategy of individuals taking their cases through the chain of command of our justice system; state by state and case by case. Hopefully the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case will become that landmark case like (as you mentioned) the renowned Brown v. Board of Education case; it’s only right. Brown v. Board of Education is the perfect analogy in my opinion regarding the current, past and future of marriage equality.

    My thoughts are that the ‘eventual law’ that will be put in place in favor of marriage equality will circumvent the entrenched homophobic bigotry and the prejudice of conservative America’s condemnation of the innately born Same Gender Loving person. My passion of trying to steer homosexual and anti-homosexual people to study and understand the bible historically and spiritually correct via http://www.sonofabishop.blogspot.com; the burden of that task may in the long run become much lighter.

    Samuel M. Brown aka Son of a Bishop

  2. Anon says:

    Civil unions should never become reality. It gave perversion the foot in the door to give it legitimacy. Homosexuality is a perverse lifestyle choice, telling people it’s ‘ok’ or ‘normal’ does not help them. God loves all His children and wants to rescue them from this sin which becomes a cruel master, as does all sins that can enslave us.

    The bible is clear on this, careful twisting scripture to perverse acceptance. Read up on Sodom. Read Paul’s writings. Read about Jesus saying, from the beginning God made them male and female, when talking about marriage.

    If you don’t believe God, then believe the stats on HIV, risks of multiple partners, increased drug use and low mortality rates for homosexuals.

  3. josh says:

    come join us in the 21st century “anon”. The view is really rather nice once you open up your mind a wee bit.

  4. Mary says:

    Even if the Supreme Court were to do the unthinkable and legalize homosexual marriage, then it will be banned by writing it directly into the U.S. Constitution. A repeat at the federal level of what happened in the state of California. Add up the number of states who have banned it in their state constitutions already, plus the states in the process of doing it, and there are more than enough states to pass the amendment.

  5. Tiffany says:

    Anon, beyond the fact that you provide no actual proof behind your claims, you seem to be forgetting that the supreme court wasn’t made to determine if laws were correct in the eyes of your religion, but rather to determine if laws are constitutional. Proposition 8, and all amendments to state constitutions that create a set of citizens who are denied rights, violate the constitution. So as upsetting as it may be to you that some people don’t believe in the same thing as you, it doesn’t matter in the legal realm.

    Now that we’ve been over the legal reasons, let’s talk about how oppressive you sound trying to force your beliefs on the rest of us. Not every gay person partakes in orgies all day, and this image you have contradicts the fact that gays are seeking the right to be in a legal, monogamous relationship. Who are you to say that a woman shouldn’t be able to share her medical benefits with her partner, who has been a faithful and wonderful partner, simply because that partner has the same anatomy? All so you can feel better and cite a book that you probably haven’t read through. If you’ve ever eaten shrimp, or worn a shirt that wasn’t made from 100% one kind of fiber, you are going to hell. While you’re at it, why not go after the cancer victims who lost their hair to chemo and aren’t wearing hats? The bible does say that your head must be covered after all. Being gay isn’t a choice, the only choice is whether or not to hide it to avoid being told we are lesser people by those who share your opinions.

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