The California State Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriages are legal in California marked a historic and positive turn in our state’s history.
While racial discrimination has long been legally banned, this ruling finally recognizes and formalizes equality on the basis of sexual orientation. One of the most important parts of our constitution is equality for all, regardless of any kind of minority status. This ruling has extended this principle to include gays and lesbians, and rightly so. This ruling not only allows same-sex marriages, it also sets a precedent to extend equality for lesbians and gays in countless other legal areas.
Marriage is a deeply personal topic to many, and the thought of desecrating it can be deeply offensive. Many have argued that redefining marriage in this sense goes against tradition. But America is a country built on the voice of many, and “tradition” means different things depending on who you ask. Despite similar protest, our country has previously changed the definition of marriage. It was only in 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Banning marriages between two people of the same gender is no different.
It is important to remember the secular aspects of American society and regardless of the religious meanings of marriage, there are legal meanings attached to it as well. Married people enjoy many legal protections that life partners do not have: they automatically gain joint custody of children, have financial and tax benefits and can make medical decisions for their spouse, among others. More importantly, marriage formalizes the love that two people share, and makes their union legitimate in the eyes of society. To exclude a select group of citizens from these rights is unconstitutional, and it is wonderful that California’s courts have recognized this.
As with any kind of historical and controversial process, there will be those who want to fight this ruling and extend the legal battle. However, progress must prevail, and Californians should search their consciences if an anti-same-sex marriage proposal is added to the November ballot. Do we want to uphold California’s tradition of equality and openness? Or should we return to an era of discrimination and oppression of those without a voice?