A matter of justice

According to the Sacramento Bee, Mike Villines, the leader of the Republicans in the state Assembly, had an interesting response to the California Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision last Thursday (May 15) upholding homosexuals’ right to marry. “I am very disappointed that the [court], by the narrowest of margins, would allow their own personal partisan views to get in the way of their duty to uphold the rule of law by thwarting the will of the overwhelming majority of Californians who voted in support of Proposition 22,” Villines said.

Perhaps Villines didn’t realize that six of the seven justices, and three of the four who voted in the majority, are Republicans, appointed by Republican governors. What might their “personal partisan views” be?

In fact, the justices were merely doing their job, which is to uphold the California Constitution’s prohibition of discrimination. “An individual’s sexual orientation—like a person’s race or gender—does not constitute a legitimate base on which to deny or withhold rights,” wrote Chief Justice Ronald George, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Ronald Reagan.

As Justice George noted, tradition was an insufficient basis for denying a fundamental right. The California Supreme Court similarly decided, 60 years ago, that the state’s law against interracial marriage was unconstitutional. And again, in the 1960s, when it threw out the repeal of the Rumford Fair Housing Law prohibiting racial discrimination in the sale of houses.

This was a case of a conservative court transcending right-wing ideology to render a fair verdict based on the constitution. To his credit, Gov. Schwarzenegger has said he will uphold the ruling—and also oppose an amendment on the November ballot that would rewrite the constitution to prohibit gay marriage.

As long as marriage is a state-sanctioned contract, gay people should enjoy the same rights as straight Californians. It’s that simple.