A great day

May 26, 2009, was a historic day. The California Supreme Court handed down its decision that upheld a voter-passed ban on same-sex marriages, but it allowed about 18,000 marriages performed before the ban to remain legal. On the other side of the country, President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, selecting a woman who, if OK’d by Congress, will be the Court’s first Hispanic justice.

And while these two events seem widely disparate, they have enough in common to warrant a mention.

First, these are each wise first steps. But they are also giant strides forward in our country’s equality battles.

Bear with us while we explain. First, while it’s incredibly disheartening that the California Supreme Court upheld the marriage ban, any other decision would have been imprudent. We live in a democratic republic, and the will of the people, as expressed by the majority through voting, should rarely be reversed. The correct method to change this law is to create an initiative to restore legal, same-sex weddings in California.

Yes, it’s much more difficult this way. Gay rights advocates from all walks will have to get together, get organized and work to get the initiative passed. Prop 8 should never have been approved, and had political activists been paying attention to what was happening in their own backyard, instead of swarming into other states to advocate in the presidential election, it never would have been. Also, where was the California Legislature before Prop. 8 won the day?

But again, did those justices allow the majority to put the fundamental rights of a minority group to a popular vote and undermine the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution? It’s an easy argument to make.

But here’s where the one step forward comes in. California now recognizes gay marriage. Those 18,000 people form the vanguard that will force government to come up with systems to deal with the legal partnerships and will undermine the opposition to same-sex marriage by showing that the peculiar institution of marriage was not torn asunder by including more people under its legal, moral and social umbrella. But there are other states with legal same-sex marriage. How will California recognize its own legal same-sex marriages, but not those of other states? Seems like the full faith and credit clause might have some impact here to undermine Prop. 8.

As far as the Sotomayor nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s too simplistic to say the nomination is only a first step toward Hispanic representation on our top court. Many pundits believe the G.O.P. is spoiling for a fight on this Court nomination, but the fact is, Hispanics are the fastest growing voting block in this country, and any attempts by Republicans to block or filibuster this nomination will surely play havoc in next year’s congressional elections.

Yes, Tuesday, May 26, 2009, was a day when large groups of Americans moved closer to equal representation, rights and protections within the panorama of these United States. We hope the tide continues to rise.