By Bonnie Chan, California Young Women’s Collaborative Project Coordinator
On Thursday, May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court overturned a state ban on same-sex marriage, ruling by a historic 4-3 vote that same-sex couples now have the right to marry in California.
Forwarded news stories, press releases, and celebratory emails started flooding my email inbox almost immediately after the decision. Announcements went up on Facebook; friends updated their Facebook statuses to variations of “celebrating the CA Supreme Court decision!!!” Mmm, celebration in the modern age– what a lovely, electronic embrace. It is a beautiful, summer-hot day in the Bay Area today. San Francisco is floating on air.
It was not an undisputed decision. In his dissenting opinion, California Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter wrote that the court “does not have the right to erase, then recast, the age-old definition of marriage, as virtually all societies have understood it, in order to satisfy its own contemporary notions of equality and justice.”
To which I say-
It was only 41 years ago that the last law banning interracial marriage in the U.S. was struck down in the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia decision. (California, on the other hand, was the first state in the nation to overturn its anti-miscegenation laws in 1948.) And it was only 44 years ago that African Americans gained the right to vote.
Now I will borrow from the movie “Half Nelson” this definition of history: The change occurring from the constant struggle between opposite or opposing forces. There is one force borne of tradition and age-old definition; there is another force borne of the necessity of new ways of thinking to reflect new understandings, new technology, new discoveries, and a constantly evolving human society. A popular movement develops to address the necessity of new ways of thinking. This movement pits itself against traditions that have often been immortalized, especially by those wary of change, as the foundations of a “moral” society.
So there are, of course, dissenters. There may be more dissenters than supporters, as past state elections have shown. There are people who, at this very moment, are blaming San Francisco for unraveling the fragile moral fabric of this great society, people who will lie awake tonight terrified that their teenagers will now learn about condoms and people will start wearing thongs with low-rise jeans and everyone will feel free to have non-missionary sex with the lights on. They are still waiting for San Francisco to, God willing, break off into the Pacific Ocean.
And then there are the celebrators, the human beings who have been waiting years and decades to have the right to marry the person of their choosing. The ones who have been asking why it is up to the government to decide that some kinds of love were to be recognized as more valid than others. For them, and for everyone who supports equality, it is a lovely day to be a Californian.