A Year of Marriage Earthquakes in California

QUEERTY YEAR IN REVIEW — If one single story dominated the gay news cycle this year, it would be the roller coaster saga of California marriage equality. Even if you feel that marriage is a bourgeois heterosexual institution in which you have no interest, it’s undeniable that gay marriage has become a flash point for civil rights in general. And the passage of Prop. 8 has galvanized the gay community in a way not seen since the height of the AIDS crisis.

In May, we jumped for joy when we heard the big news:

“Boy, oh boy! Things are probably hectic in California right now, where the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Proposition 22, a ban on gay marriage, is unconstitutional.

Here’s a choice bit of the 172 page ruling: “In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

Then, in early June, we were brought down when Prop. 8 officially made it on the ballot:

We were really hoping not to have to report this, but we’re powerless. Sorry.

California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen yesterday approved four measures for this November’s ballot, including a reversal of last month’s gay marriage ruling:

California voters will have a chance to overturn the recent state Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage just five months from now, as the secretary of state certified a measure to define marriage as “between a man and a woman” for the November ballot.

Proponents of the measure submitted more than 1.1 million signatures to qualify for the general election ballot. A random sampling by the secretary of state’s office determined they had collected more than the 694,354 valid signatures needed.

Gay rights activists have already started revving up for a battle to the finish. For now, gay folk can still marry between June 17 and the November election.

It was time to be up again on June 16th, when gay marriage became a legal reality in California:

“It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: California officials have officially made same-sex marriage official!

At 5:01 PM, clerks began issuing the state’s first same-sex marriage licenses. And, as a proper institution, the ladies went first. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who have been together 55 years, inaugurated the festivities in San Francisco, while Robin Tyler and Diane Olson did it up in Los Angeles county. The latter, pictured above, were the original plaintiffs in the case that led to California Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the ban on gay marriage. HRC’s Brad Luna, who is in San Francisco, estimates that about 500-700 people are outside city hall cheering every couple that crosses the threshold.”

But the summer would be a long one, as the No on 8 campaign focused on raising money and Yes on 8 began laying the groundwork to convince voters that gay marriage would harm the children. In July we noticed this:

California’s social conservatives are sinking to new lows in their battle to ban gay marriage:

Backers of a November initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California plan to tell voters in the state ballot pamphlet that the constitutional amendment would protect children as young as kindergarten age from being taught in school about the virtues of gay and lesbian matrimony.

“If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, teachers will be required to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage,” supporters of Proposition 8 said in ballot arguments that went on public display this week at the secretary of state’s office.

And then the gays will unfurl their tentacles, suck out everyone’s brains and take over the world!”

While we thought the idea was ridiculous, many voters fell for it hook, line and sinker. In August came more bad news: “The sponsors of Proposition 8 announced Tuesday that they have received their largest campaign contribution to date: a $1 million donation from the Knights of Columbus.”

With the fundraising details released, No on 8 realized they were being outspent. And with Yes on 8 hitting with attack ads while canvassing the state on foot and building a get out the vote effort, the Nos were being outsmarted as well.

Early in the morning on Nov. 5th, the major blow came through:

“Alas, it looks like California will strip away the rights of gay men and women, and amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. The latest poll results, with all but 5 percent of precincts reporting, show Proposition 8 passing by a margin of some 400,000 votes.”

But this roller coaster of love was just getting started, as thousands took to the streets to protest Prop. 8 night after night. We called it, “The Second Stonewall.”

And with equality activists fighting, organizing, preparing a ballot measure to overturn Prop. 8 and examining all the things that went wrong with the No on 8 campaign, California’s marriage battle olls on into 2009. In March, the California Supreme Court will decide whether Prop. 8 should be invalidated. No matter the outcome, this is one story unlikely to end anytime soon.