Marriage equality fight continues

The fight for marriage equality took a disappointing turn Aug. 13 when the California Supreme Court nullified the nearly 4,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in that state. The 5-2 decision was met with both concern and a renewed pledge to continue the battle for equal marriage. Human Rights Campaign spokesman Marc Shields called the decision “a small setback in a much larger national discussion, debate and movement.” Shields said the ruling doesn’t address “the real issue … the much larger issue of equal protection under the law.” The California decision followed Missouri voter approval of adding a ban on same-sex marriage to the state’s constitution. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups remain optimistic. Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, plans to re-introduce a bill into the state legislature that would make same-sex marriages legal. “Time is on our side,” Leno said. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the first same-sex couple married in San Francisco last February, expressed the concern felt by many couples who have been put in limbo by the court’s decision. “Del is 83 years old and I am 79,” Lyon said. “After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time.” The court ruled that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom violated a 1977 law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the mayor stood by his actions. “There is nothing that any court decision or politician can do that will take that [wedding] moment away,” Newsom said. Measures similar to the Missouri ban will be voted on in Louisiana on Sept. 18, and in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah on Nov. 2. While Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage, LGBT rights groups say his stance is far better than that of President Bush, who is pushing a federal constitutional amendment banning such marriages. In remarks to the Democratic National Convention, Human Rights Campaign President Cheryl Jacques pointed to Kerry-Edwards’ support for LGBT equality. “They know that the Constitution is a vessel of freedom, not a tool for discrimination.” The author can be reached at jbarnett@pww.org.