(Note: if you feel you may have read this post before, you may have, but I’ve added a few things.)
Two major court decisions today, one on the federal level and one in California. But since I live in California, I will give an initial and only initial reaction on it first.
Seems like the California Supreme Court has stood law or logic on its head by on the one hand upholding a statewide ballot measure to ban same sex marriage and on the other hand ruling that existing same sex marriages before the ban remain legal. Reportedly there are 18,000 still legally recognized same sex marriages.
It seems that since they recognize the legality of the previous same sex marriages then they are admitting that a class of people, gays (or homosexuals, if you will), have had their rights taken away from them.
But that is only an initial reaction. I will have to read the full accounts of the whole thing.
Well, I did go ahead and read at least part of the text of the California high court decision before I became extremely fatigued. But apparently the court held that Prop. 8, which banned same sex marriages by amending the state constitution, was okay because it was in their determination an “amendment” and not a “revision” of the state constitution. Under California law voters can make amendments but revisions, as I understand it, would require a two thirds vote by the legislature and then a simple majority by the voters. I think they can also be made in something called a constitutional convention. And as you can tell, I am hazy on all of this, but that’s the best I can come up with now and what I have just written is a slight modification of my original post on this subject. But suffice to say, amendments are easier to to do than revisions. Interestingly, there is no hard and fast definition of what a revision actually is. But, according to the high court, amendments make “discrete” changes, but revisions amount to wholesale changes in governmental plans and framework — whatever. The fact remains, as far as I can tell, that there is one law for straights and one for so-called gays. Gays are still allowed civil unions and the existing marriages were upheld (like I say, I don’t quite get the reasoning or logic).
Not that he has any credibility left, but Gov. Schwarzenegger supports same sex marriage and I understand recent polling shows increasing support for it as well (opinion on this issue was volatile even before Prop. 8). So it would seem activists (this time for the other side) could push through another measure and voters could turn around and approve same sex marriage (and the court seems to think it’s up to the voters) and so, here we go again.
While I personally am not an advocate of same sex marriage, I am not sure that civil unions afford the same advantages as marriage and I would support some coherent and equitable and solid public policy on the matter. This government by initiative or current whim of the voters is hard to follow.
I like the fact that President Barack Obama has chosen a person who is both a woman and an Hispanic as his nominee to sit on the high court. We desperately need a better representation of both sexes and more of a cross section ethnically so we can get away from the conventional white male Anglo-Saxon domination in this branch of government that makes so many far reaching decisions on our personal lives.
I know little about nominee Sonia Sotomayor. One thing that concerns me, though, is that she took part in a controversial decision that as I understand it threw out the promotions of white firemen (to include one Hispanic) on the grounds that since no black firefighters scored high enough the test must have been discriminitory (no one was promoted — in my initial post I erroneously asserted that minority firefighters had been promoted). Seems to me that such reasoning is counter to the best interests of both majorities and minorities. Who would want to think he or she was promoted on the basis of race, rather than fitness for the job? And how would that be in the best interests of public safety? I’ll need to study up on that decision and other areas of her background before making my final judgment (and of course no one is waiting on my judgment – but I am a concerned citizen). That firefighter case, Ricci vs. DeStephano, is currently awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A big news day!