An ardent advocate for the glbt community Zepatos recently moved back to Oregon. For the last 3 1/2 years she has been the director of organizing and training for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and is the right person to comment on the decision as well as the political status of the fight in both Calif. and Ore.
Today the Supreme Court of California legalized marriage for same-sex couples in California, stating 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 (marriage) to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.” Essentially, the Court is recognizing that every couple, under their state Constitution, deserves the chance to get married as a step toward realizing their hopes and dreams.
As a straight ally who has worked as an activist and organizer for LGBT equality for many years, I was overjoyed to hear this news. Even though Equality California and a broad coalition of organizations had worked hard over many years to get significant domestic partnership protections in place, the real-life experience of same-sex couples across the state was that being “domestically partnered” just wasn't the same.
This public debate is playing out in many states as a sort of chess game—here in Oregon opponents of same-sex marriage were able to amend the State Constitution in 2004 and block any chance (in the foreseeable future) of asking the Court to recognize same-sex marriage. Here, we may be faced in November with an attempt to outlaw the very real and needed rights conferred by domestic partnership—something the Court in California just declared to be separate, and not equal.
In California, the chess game is playing out in a different fashion—opponents of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples recently turned in over 1 million signatures to the Secretary of State, and will likely qualify a Constitutional Amendment outlawing same-sex marriage on the November ballot. So they will seek to overturn the Court, after the fact, and nullify thousands of marriages that will take place before November.
Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage had already passed the California legislature twice—only to be vetoed twice- by Governor Schwarzenegger. But just last month, the Governor said that the new anti-marriage initiative in California would be “a waste of time,” and pledged to campaign against it.
So while loving couples – like Phyllis Lyon (83 years old) and her partner of 56 years, Del Martin (87) --can line up to get married beginning next month in California, their marriage will once again be put on the voting bloc for everyone else to judge. How many times should gay people's lives be put up for a public vote? And how would straight couples feel if our right to protect our families were to be taken away?
Opponents of gay marriage have failed—in every state, and every situation—to prove that any straight marriage is threatened by extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples.
What's really at stake here is one central question—is the love that same-sex partners have for one another equal to the love that straight people have? And do gay couples deserve the same chance to walk down the aisle and celebrate their love before their family and friends? In both cases, the answer is yes. —Thalia Zepatos