Q & A: California Gay Marriage Ruling Explained

On Monday, March 14, 2005, a San Francisco judge ruled against California’s ban on same-sex “marriage”, reopening the battlefront of the cultural war that exploded in the same city exactly thirteen months ago.

In his 27-page opinion, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer said “no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite sex partners.” He furthermore characterized marriage as “the basic human right to marry the person of one’s choice.”

The ruling was made in light of a series of lawsuits brought by the city of San Francisco and a dozen same-sex couples after the state Supreme Court halted the four-week “marriage” spree initiated by Mayor Gavin Newsom, on February 14, 2004.

In August, the California high court nullified the 4,000 “marriage” licenses issued by City Hall, and upheld the state’s voter-supported law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman only.

The city then sued the state seeking to declare the marriage law unconstitutional. On October, the California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed arguments defending the law; Campaign for California Families and the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund later joined defense after receiving permission from Kramer.

Following yesterday’s ruling on the consolidated cases, same-sex partners – many whom were “married” at city hall one year ago – and their supporters took to the streets to declare victory.

Meanwhile, traditional marriage proponents criticized the ruling and made immediate plans for appeal.

The following is the full text of an interview with Mathew Staver, president and senior counsel of Liberty Counsel (LC), who represented CCF during Monday’s hearing.

Same-sex “marriage” supporters were celebrating in front of the San Francisco City Hall last night. Is it too early for those celebrations?

Yes, celebrating the ruling now is as immature as it was when Rosie O’Donnell danced on the street after receiving her “marriage” license last year – the license was later nullified, and it is clearly too early for them to celebrate.

This is just the beginning of a long battle. Not only is this case going to go up to the appellate court, it will be like pouring gasoline on fire; I think this will be the spark that ignites Californians to go to the polls to pass a constitutional amendment on marriage. And since California is so big and influential, it will inspire other states to follow suit.

The battle is clearly far from over.

You mentioned that the case will be appealed. Are there specific dates you know of?

I don’t know when exactly the case can be appealed. First, I will return to court since this is only a temporary ruling; unless the ruling is finalized, it can’t even be appealed because it’s not enforceable.

So it will be sometime in April when the ruling is appealed. And even after it is appealed, it will take a while for it to go to the court system.

What is your next plan of action?

I will first go to court on March 30th to file paperwork. The court ordered everyone back since this was a tentative ruling and not a final one. Sometime after that, the judge will pass a final ruling that will be subject to appeal.

Is this case similar to what happened in Massachusetts?

It is very similar. The only difference is that here in California you have a single judge making the decision while in Massachusetts justices from the state’s highest court made their ruling.

What was similar is the shallow reasoning behind both rulings. The court found in California that there is no rational purpose for the law. That is absolutely ridiculous because the rational basis test means the government wins if there is any rational reason for the law. There may be ten reasons why the law is bad, but if there is one reason it may be good – even if this reason is debated – the government wins.

The court said there is not one single reason that is conceivable for the [marriage] law. But common sense shows children are procreated by a man and a woman. Even in the cases of adoption and artificial insemination, children are born by a man and a woman’s DNA. So clearly, for the sake of procreation and childbearing, the state has a purpose for the law.

Judge Kramer also compared the ban on same-sex “marriage’ to the ban once placed on interracial marriage in supporting his argument. Do you have any comments on this reasoning?

I think that is absolutely crazy because you’re born into your race, and that is something unchangeable. Beyond that, in interracial cases, the issue at hand was about the restrictions on race being added to the definition of marriage. Even if the residual of race is removed, the marriage definition still remains as a union between a man and a woman.

In the same-sex case, it’s about people who don’t want to enter marriage. They want to enter some other union, and they want to call that something else “marriage”.

These are totally different because in the interracial case, you still had the essence of marriage reserved. Here, you have the essence of marriage destroyed.