Californian voters have banned same-sex marriage just months after it was legalised by the state supreme court.
The build-up towards the November 4 ballot in which ‘Proposition 8’ was agreed upon was bitter, with much negative advertising aimed at both sides. Despite opposition from influential corporations such as Google, Yahoo, and Apple the measure passed in the state elections with 52% of the vote. The result was that the following amendment was made to the state constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Voters for the proposition, funded mainly by the Mormon and Catholic churches, insisted that they fought for traditional American families. Frank Schubert, the co-manager of the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign stated, “People believe in the institution of marriage[…]It’s one institution that crosses ethnic divides, that crosses partisan divides…”
Openly gay celebrity Ellen DeGeneres commented on the ban: “America had taken a giant step towards equality” by electing Barack Obama for President but had “taken a great step away” by accepting the Proposition 8 amendment.
From 2000 a ‘domestic partnership’ had been available to same-sex couples. This changed on May 15th 2008, when the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying sexual orientation, like race or gender, “does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” Following this ruling over 18,000 same-sex couples were wed. It was the May 15th legislation that initiated mass outrage inspiring the campaign for the Proposition 8 amendment.
Although many criticise this outlawing of gay marriage as utterly discriminatory, it must be remembered that same-sex couples are not denied all rights to legal recognition, and in most states are afforded many of the same rights as heterosexual couples. In 8 states within the USA there exists legal recognition of a domestic partnership, which does confer certain rights to the couple.
There is also the possibility of a review of the ban, with the Supreme Court agreeing to hear arguments on three separate challenges filed in the days after the proposition passed.