Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm Getting Married in the Morning

The California Supreme Court has just held, 4-3, that the state constitution requires the government to allow same-sex couples to marry civilly. Chief Justice George wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Kennard, Werdegar, and Moreno. The court held that the least deferential form of review applied -- "strict scrutiny" -- because the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and because it "impinges upon a same-sex couple’s fundamental interest in having their family relationship accorded the same respect and dignity enjoyed by an opposite-sex couple." More details soon.

Now, it might not actually be in the morning. Under Rule of Court 8.528(b), the decision will become final in 30 days unless the court orders otherwise. Notably, today's decision does not follow Vermont's or Massachusett's lead in offering legislators 6 months to fix the constitutional problem. In part, that seems unneeded because those states lacked the fairly comprehensive domestic partnership regime California enjoys. What the court instead said was that "Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court." Nothing should keep a county (say, San Francisco) that wanted to from complying with the judgment before 30 days have run.

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