Marriage in California Could End?

Randy Hall | Staff Writer/Editor | Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Marriage in California Could End?

( - In legal briefs submitted to the California Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown both stated that a future legislature could abolish marriage and remove the rights now enjoyed by a husband and wife, a pro-family group charged on Monday.

In Brown's document, filed on Aug. 17, the attorney general stated that "the words 'marry' and 'marriage' have no essential constitutional significance under the California Constitution. Thus, the legislature could change the name of the legal relationship now known as 'marriage' to some other name without any constitutional impediment."

Schwarzenegger filed a brief of his own that day, which said "the administration submits that use of the words 'marry' and 'marriage' is not required by the California Constitution. Thus, the name of the legal relationship now known as 'marriage' could be changed."

Regarding whether rights for a husband and wife can be eliminated by the California legislature, Schwarzenegger wrote that "except for the ability to choose and declare one's life partner in a reciprocal commitment of mutual support, any of the statutory rights and obligations that are afforded to married couples in California could be abrogated or eliminated by the legislature or the electorate for any rational legislative purpose."

The fact that two of the state's top officials expressed similar comments on the future of marriage in the state led Randy Thomasson, an organizer of and the group's California Marriage Amendment, to call for support in getting the marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot.

"This is proof positive that the initiative, which will prevent marriage from being abolished and prevent marriage rights from being eliminated, is absolutely needed to protect the sacred institution of marriage from activist judges and liberal politicians," said Thomasson in a news release.

"Protecting the word 'marriage' in the state constitution is useless if the politicians can still get rid of marriage and marriage rights for a man and a woman," he added.

According to the organization's Web site, the amendment states: "Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere.

"Neither the legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman," reads the document.

"Any public act, record or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable," it concludes.

However, the leaders of two homosexual advocacy groups told Cybercast News Service on Monday that Thomasson and his group are concentrating on a side issue in the briefs rather than the main subject of "marriage equality."

"Marriage validates relationships and strengthens California families by honoring the commitments of every loving couple," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors.

"We have already learned that domestic partnerships and civil unions cannot replace the critical legal protections, universal recognition and dignity that marriage affords," Kors added. "Excluding same-sex couples from marriage denies countless couples legal recognition of the love they share."

"Everyone knows marriage has no substitute," said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Marriage is the way loving couples express their commitment and love, and this is true for lesbian and gay couples as well, who long for the opportunity to marry.

"The time has come to bring this unconstitutional discrimination to an end," she said.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill in 2005 that would have deleted the phrase "a man and a woman" from state marriage law and replaced it with the words "two persons."

The governor has vowed to veto a similar bill now working its way through the state legislature and has stated that the issue should be put directly to the voters.

The latest battle over same-sex marriage in California began last April, when Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a joint brief on behalf of 15 same-sex couples and Equality California.

After all parties in the case filed initial briefs in June, the justices said those briefs failed to answer three fundamental issues. First, the court asked for a detailed description of the differences between the legal rights accorded by domestic partnerships and those of marriage under California law.

The second question asked for the lawyers' positions on what marriage rights are spelled out in California's constitution. That led to the third query, involving Proposition 22, an initiative passed by voters in 2000. "Do the terms 'marriage' or 'marry' themselves have constitutional significance under the California constitution?" the court asked.

While all parties in the case have filed supplemental briefs providing their answers to the court's questions, no date has been set for oral arguments in the case, and a final ruling is not expected to be handed down until early next year.

digg_skin = 'compact'

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.

Subscribe to the free daily E-brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.