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Gay marriage gets its days in court

Gay marriage california
Richie Beanan from Los Angeles, puts a sign on a bus that will tour California in support of Proposition 8. after a rally in Sacramento, Calif. in October 2008.  Proposition 8 amended the California state constitution to ban same sex marriage.   (Steve Yeater/AP)

It’s so full of delicious ironies, you could practically eat it for lunch.

The fact that California – famous for its no-holds-barred social scene and anything-goes morality was also in the forefront of cancelling a law allowing gay marriage was strange enough. But that the vote was stridently opposed by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – the symbol of hyper-masculinity --  only added to the eye-rolling.

Also weighing in against the gay marriage ban is President Barack Obama, a living example of family values, whose administration entered the legal fray last week in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Arguing that California voters had no right to ban same sex marriage in their state, the Obama administration is calling for marriage equality on the grounds that denying gay couples the right to the legal status of marriage violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause – a view that could have wide-ranging consequences for other states that reject it.

Were California voters on siesta break when the referendum on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, went to the polls in November 2008?

Not quite. Although it was approved by only 52 per cent of voters, the referendum was a victory for an aggressive multi-million-dollar lobbying alliance of the Catholic and Mormon churches – another irony, as the former doesn’t recognize the latter as truly Christian.

As if that weren’t enough, 100 dedicated Republicans, including macho movie maker Clint Eastwood, signed a separate brief against the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which comes before the court later this month. They maintained that same sex marriage supports their goals of “limited government and individual freedom.”

With opposition like this – backed by polls that say the majority of Americans (including Californians) believe gay marriage is fine with them –  has the shelf-life of these laws now expired? The court’s decision will be closely watched.

Eastwood to the nine justices: “go ahead, rule. Make my day.”

Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights as a correspondent and bureau chief from the former Soviet Union to the Balkans, Northern Ireland, the Middle East and South Asia. She covered the U.S. elections in 2008 and 2012, and has written on the U.S. Supreme Court.


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