The decision by the California Supreme Court to legalize gay "marriage" two weeks ago may not have as large a national impact as expected, according to experts.
"While the California ruling is very significant, a lot of states have already taken action on [gay 'marriage']," Christine Nelson, an analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, told the Los Angeles Times.
Nelson noted that since the passage of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act dictating the freedom of states to define for themselves the legal status of gay "marriage," 42 states have passed laws defining marriage as "a union between a man and a woman." Among these states, 27 currently have constitutional amendments that outright ban the practice – making it impossible to be overturned by legislators or courts.
The presences of numerous restrictions on gay "marriage," therefore, have led experts to conclude that sudden changes to the marriage landscape across America would be a gradual process.
USC law professor David Cruz, according to the Los Angeles Times, noted that despite the historic 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that declared racial segregation unconstitutional, segregation continued to exist throughout America decades after. In general, courts were reluctant to force the decision on states, Cruz said.
"The court ducked the issue after Brown v. Board of Education," he explained.
While California may have special status as the nation's most populous state, the decision of four state Supreme Court justices to rule in favor of gay "marriage" will not significantly speed its proliferation without widespread public approval of the practice, experts say.
According to a recent Gallup poll, gay "marriage" is unpopular among the majority of Americans. Only 40 percent of Americans currently say "marriage" between same-sex couples should be legal, according to the poll's results released this month.
This November, voters in California and Florida will likely vote on constitutional amendments to ban gay "marriage." Observers in both states have cited public support for the measures as "strong."