05 February, 2007

The Fight Continues in California for Same-Sex Marriage

I'm glad to see that the typically Californian modus operandi of being laid back, easy-going, c'est la vie is taking a back seat in the struggle for those gay couples wishing to marry and thereby obtaining equal rights and treatment under the law. As a form of protest, a very smart, sassy, and ingenious Yolo County Clerk employee (Freddie Oakley -- she's the person responsible for issuing marriage licenses) is standing up for equal rights under the law and, in concert with various other demonstrations and protestations that will occur this year on Valentine's Day, she will offer a "Certificate of Inequality" for same-sex couples seeking a marriage license, which cannot be obtained under current state law in California (well, not just California; only Massachusetts allows for same-sex marriage, and even that right is under attack).

Quoth one article,

The woman who oversees civil marriage in Yolo County is planning to issue "certificate of inequality" to same-sex couples on Valentine's Day. It's her way of protesting California's ban on gay marriage. They will say, "I issue this Certificate of Inequality to you because your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality."
What's really cool about Ms. Oakley's action is that, unlike most other municipal employees who take some sort of action in protest of what are (in my opinion) unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage, Ms. Oakley isn't gay. As this article explains, she's married, has kids, the 2.7 dogs, and probably a white picket fence in front of her house. Oh, and get this: she's an Evangelical Christian. So there are actually religious people out there who are intelligent and can use their brains.

Quoth she, "I don't think that religion belongs at the office. I think it's wrong. I don't go down and tell my pastor how to preach and I don't want him to stand behind my counter[.]" In another article, she states, "I don't give up my right to exercise the First Amendment by assuming county office[.]"

Kudos, Ms. Oakley, and many thanks. I just wish more Americans could see the logic, and legality, of her position.

Lest we forget why being able to marry is important, let's take a look at some of the legal and non-legal consequences that can depend on marital status:

  1. A New York judge has ruled that a Long Island lesbian cannot sue the man responsible for the accident that killed her partner because their relationship is not recognized by New York State law. ... In his ruling in the Saegert case Judge Daniel Palmieri noted that an unmarried opposite-sex couple also would not be recognized under the law.
    The difference, say LGBT rights attorneys, is that opposite-sex couples could marry if they wished while same-sex couples are denied that right in New York State. (Full Story)
  2. Getting married enhances mental health, especially if you're depressed, according to a new U.S. study. (Full article, Related article). More information is contained in this article, which states, "A US study of more than 125,000 men and women revealed married couples suffer fewer mental health problems than those who never married or got divorced."
  3. As of January 31, 1997, there were 1,049 federal laws where marital status is a factor in the law, pertaining either to benefits, rights, privileges, or responsibilities of married couples. On January 31, 1997, the United States General Accounting Office issued a report (PDF) wherein the United States Code was searched for "laws in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status." (Note: this report has been updated (PDF) as of January 23, 2004 to 1,138 federal laws; I probably should devote an entire post to the updated report).
  4. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding that marriage is a "basic civil right" (aka a Fundamental Right) and, therefore, any restrictions placed upon marriage must be subject to a standard of legal review called strict scrutiny -- the most stringent form of judicial review -- to determine whether such restrictions can be deemed constitutional. "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." (Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)) In order to pass a strict scrutiny standard of judicial review, a three-prong test is used:
    1. The law or policy must be justified by a compelling governmental interest;
    2. The law or policy must be narrowly tailored to meet such compelling governmental interest; and
    3. The law or policy must be the least restrictive means of achieving such compelling governmental interest.
  5. As I've previously blogged, I believe that the prohibition of same-sex marriage violates United States law (specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
  6. Same-sex marriages are allowed when one partner is transgendered (e.g., a MtF marrying a woman). (A whole separate issue arises out of transgendered people and marriage.)

I'm certain that there are more and further ramifications but for now, this should give you something to ponder. If there's something you think I've overlooked, by all means, leave a comment!

For my Gather.com friends, here's a link back to my post there so you can comment.