April 23, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
A ballot initiative California voters passed in 2008 has placed California and the issue of same-sex marriage in the national limelight as the Supreme Court conducts hearings to determine whether to uphold or overturn Prop. 8, an amendment to the State Constitution which restricts the state definition of marriage to heterosexual couples.
Domestic partnerships, which have been legal for same-sex couples to obtain in California since 1999, afford many of the same tax and insurance benefits as a marriage, but are not recognized out of state. For many, the distinction itself —between domestic partnerships and marriages — inherently creates a “separate but equal” issue similar to those faced during the Civil Rights Movement. For others, the main issue is one of states’ rights, and the idea that a panel of justices could overturn something that voters decided is repugnant.
“I don’t believe the judicial system should be overriding what the state has voted on,” explained Ojai resident Mike Lenehan, a former coach, Recreation Commissioner and veteran of the first Iraq War.
Same-sex marriage was legal in California after the California Supreme Court ruled in an equal protection case June 2008, until the voter initiative Prop. 8 passed in November of the same year. Prop 8 amended the California Constitution to read: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Multiple lawsuits were filed with the California Supreme Court almost immediately. In one case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled against Prop. 8 in 2010, rendering it unconstitutional. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose panel also ruled the amendment unconstitutional. Proponents then petitioned the case to the United States Supreme Court, which recently agreed to hear the case. The court heard opening arguments March 26 and are expected to announce their decision sometime in June.
“If California votes again, and rescinds Prop. 8, I can respect that,” stated Lenehan. “I think marriage is between a man and a woman, but I have no problem with civil unions. That’s putting my personal views aside. I’m a Roman Catholic. But I’m not going to impose my views on them (same-sex couples). Basically the will of the people should be the law of the land.”
Others would go further still, in regards to both substance and procedure behind this controversial landmark case.
“If this is overturned (by the U.S. Supreme Court), that would be like saying ‘don’t even bother trying to legislate, just let the judges decide everything,’” said Katie Shorts, a resident of Ojai for more than a decade. For Shorts, legalizing same-sex marriage is a slippery slope.
“I think the people made the right decision with Prop. 8,” Shorts maintained. “For those who say, ‘How does gay marriage ruin your marriage?’ well, how does the dissolution of marriage hurt everyone? When it is expanded and changed to fit the mores of the moment, the institution of marriage is finished. If marriage can be redefined to mean simply any loving relationship between two people, then it is not marriage anymore, and there are no bounds to how we will define it … If we accept that, what do we say to people who want to marry two people? Why should gender be any more sacrosanct than the number of people? If you look around, you will see many people already advocating for that. It makes marriage a joke at a certain point. Marriage is between a man and a woman, for procreation; ultimately that is why we have the institution. And there is a much higher percentage of open marriages — what we would call adultery — in the homosexual community. It (marriage) really means something different to them.”