The LGBT community and its allies heralded the historic ruling from the California Supreme Court on May 15 that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In the 4-3 ruling, judges said that the state constitution protects a fundamental right to marry that extends equally to same-sex couples.
After refusing a challenge from 10 other states that would have stayed the ruling until after the November election, same-sex marriages are scheduled to begin on June 17. The words “bride” and “groom” on marriage licenses will be replaced with “Partner A” and “Partner B.”
However, in a sign of potential challenges to come, in early June, a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution was certified for voters to consider in the November election. Opponents of same-sex marriage had managed to collect the nearly 700,000 valid signatures needed to qualify the ballot measure.
If passed by a majority of voters in November, the ballot initiative would overturn the Supreme Court ruling and effectively ban same-sex marriage again, leaving thousands of couples expected to wed between June 17 and November 4 in legal limbo. Public opinion seems split but leaning against the ban. The Field Institute published a study on May 28 showing 52 percent of Californians supported same-sex marriage compared to 41 percent who were opposed.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who previously vetoed two legislative bills in favor of same-sex marriage, has said that he respects the court’s decision and he will not support efforts to overturn it.
An analysis issued in June by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law projected that, provided the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage does not pass, almost 120,000 same-sex couples within California and out of state would marry there over the next three years. They would inject a total of $683.6 million into the state through sales and hotel taxes, marriage fees and profits for the nascent but exploding same-sex wedding industry in California.
Sparked by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome’s decision in February 2004 to allow the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which a local judge stopped one month later, the fight for same-sex marriage in California underwent legal and legislative twists and turns as it made its way to the Supreme Court.