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Licenses Revoked
August 12, 2004 10:15 AM   Subscribe

California Supreme Court voids all San Francisco same-sex marriages. Said the mayor overstepped his authority and that the city violated the state law.
posted by kokogiak (65 comments total)

 
Very sad. Though I doubt many of the married couples expected any kind of recognition outside the City. It was, from day one, an act of civil disobedience on the part of Mayor Newsom, and that gesture has had a far-ranging impact on the national debate.
posted by scarabic at 10:33 AM on August 12, 2004


It's a good day for bigots everywhere.
posted by archimago at 10:35 AM on August 12, 2004


It is sad. I wonder tho, if Newsom will continue to treat the married couples as married in the city's eyes?
posted by amberglow at 10:35 AM on August 12, 2004


You mean secede from the Union? :)

I dunno....
posted by scarabic at 10:45 AM on August 12, 2004


Goddamn activist judges.
posted by majcher at 10:49 AM on August 12, 2004


Does this mean I don't have to be gay now?
posted by 2sheets at 10:53 AM on August 12, 2004


As disappointing as this is, I think scarabic is right in that this was probably expected from Day 1. I don't think politicians should be the ones to decide constitutional issues, which is exactly why I don't think Bush and Co. should be able to amend the constitution to ban gay marriages. They need the supreme court to make a decision (hopefully after Kerry is in office), not just let each city treat it separately. Hopefully they'll be able to do it for real sometime in the next several years.
posted by The God Complex at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2004


Does this mean I don't have to be gay now?

Yes. Wrist limpening exercises are at 6am sharp.
posted by jonmc at 11:04 AM on August 12, 2004


WHEW! For a moment there, i lost all desire to marry my girlfriend. I mean, once those homos got married, what was the point?

This is also good news for my parents. Though they agree that homos shouldn't be married, they haven't been able to get along since those homos got hitched. They were headed for divorce... its as if homos being married sent out 'marriage sanctity errosion' rays all over america. ...between you, me and the blue, i think my dad was gonna chear on my mom.

CIVILIZATION IS SAVED!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 11:12 AM on August 12, 2004


cheat*
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2004


The Divorce Attornies Lobby will not let this unfair ruling stand, thus depriving them of a badly needed increase in business.

on preview:

Does this mean I don't have to be gay now?

Yes. Wrist limpening exercises are at 6am sharp.
posted by jonmc at 2:04 PM EST on August 12


Lighten up, Francis.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:16 AM on August 12, 2004


For the lawyers in the house, when was it that the supreme court defined marriage in the first place?
posted by archimago at 11:16 AM on August 12, 2004


archimago: defined marriage in the first place

Didn't Clinton sign a Bill that was the 'Save Family Act' or something like that in 1996. It basically was the precursor to all of this, defining marriage as man and woman.

Sorry no time to get the right date or the right name, but that bill signed into law set the stage for a lot of this.
posted by fluffycreature at 11:26 AM on August 12, 2004


Well, Bush & Co cannot amend the Constitution by themselves. There's all that 2/3 majority of congress and the states to deal with too.

BTW, if you don't trust politicians to amend the constitution, why would you ever trust an unelected judge? Politicians wrote the thing in the first place, and they have to satisfy their constituents at some level or they're kicked to the curb.
posted by CRS at 11:27 AM on August 12, 2004


Fupped Duck:

I was merely busting chops. I'm on your side. Relax.
posted by jonmc at 11:29 AM on August 12, 2004


why would you ever trust an unelected judge

Because judges are trained their whole lives in interpreting law? Politicians make laws, and the courts exist to interpret them, as it has been since the dawn of our country. I'd rather have a judge than a politician applying law.

At least judges have to explain their rulings.
posted by mathowie at 11:32 AM on August 12, 2004


The opinion. As it's over 100 pages, I don't yet have any specific comments. Be back shortly.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:34 AM on August 12, 2004


it was the Defense of Marriage Act, and it's unconstitutional (which will be proved at some point--hopefully within my lifetime). People calling for Bush's idiotic hateful amendment stated as much when they were talking about it.

Can Newsom and/or any of the couples married this year take it to the Supremes?
posted by amberglow at 11:36 AM on August 12, 2004


why would you ever trust an unelected judge

what a total dumbass. turn off your television and sign up for a remedial civics course.
posted by quonsar at 11:37 AM on August 12, 2004


Go away, quonsar, nobody rattled your chain.

As an attorney, I have had lots of exposure to judges. If you think that their training interpreting laws means that they always come to the appropriate answer, I'd like you to examine the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford.
posted by CRS at 11:45 AM on August 12, 2004


CRS, I'm not saying I trust judges to do the right thing everytime (*cough* Roy Moore *cough*), but I'd certainly trust them more than a politician that's a slave to an opinion poll. The entire civil rights movement owes its success to judges that could see past the public opinion and politicians of the day, and interpret the law sans emotion.

It's weird to think this decision may have broken up 4,000 marriages today. I thought they were trying to defend marriages not dissolve them?
posted by mathowie at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2004



Because judges are trained their whole lives in interpreting law? Politicians make laws, and the courts exist to interpret them, as it has been since the dawn of our country. I'd rather have a judge than a politician applying law.

At least judges have to explain their rulings.


Exactly.

As an attorney, I have had lots of exposure to judges. If you think that their training interpreting laws means that they always come to the appropriate answer, I'd like you to examine the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford.

Who said it means they always come to the appropriate answer? I didn't. I didn't see anybody else say that, either. It just means they've been trained to do it--also, as Matt pointed out, it's helpful that they're forced to write down the reasoning behind their ruling.
posted by The God Complex at 12:03 PM on August 12, 2004


mathowie: The success of the Civil Rights Movement is also connected to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Brown v. Board was pretty much ineffective, in and of itself. It played a highly significant role, but wasn't the whole deal. Passing a law (after the Movement could no longer be denied, thanks to the work of so many activists, and media coverage of protests and violence, etc.) that allowed judges to sanction school districts that refused compliance with desegregation orders put teeth into the law. A decent and honest judge is worth plenty, but a skilled elected official is worth much more. Civic activism or participation may also be worth three or four times more.
posted by raysmj at 12:23 PM on August 12, 2004


The opinion of the court is essentially in two parts: (1) the city of San Fransisco clearly overstepped its authority in granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and (2) the court was required to both issue an order halting the city from licensing additional same-sex marriages and issue an order requiring the city to take steps to void the previously licensed marriage certificates. The court was unanimous with respect to part one, and divided 5-2 on part two.

First, the California Supreme Court was very careful to limit the scope of the decision; the constitutionality of the restriction of marriage to a man and a women was not an issue before the court. Instead, the court's only role in this case was to decide whether the city had the authority to disregard the mandates of state law when the city officials believed the law to be unconstitutional. There are currently several lawsuits in the California court system addressing that issue, and the Supreme Court took no position on those cases. This decision is essentially one about separation of powers; it is the legislature's job to make the law, the executive's job to enforce the law, and the judiciary's job to interpret the law. In this case, the California Consitution very clearly limits to discretion of administrative officials in enforcing the law. Only under very narrow circumstances may an official choose not to enforce a law he or she believes is unconstitutional, and none of those exceptions apply in this case.

On this point, the court is correct. I'm as staunch a supporter of same-sex marriage as there is, but the Mayor of San Francisco simply doesn't have the authority to ignore the state Constitution. In fact, it seemed relatively clear to me that the court was somewhat sympathetic to the same-sex marriage cause, because the opinion carefully avoids souring the potential of those cases properly positioned to address the issue. In fact, the court virtually draws a map for challenging the state constitutional provisions, in an appropriate case.

Second, once the court decided the city acted outside its authority, it had to decide on the proper remedy. Obviously an order would issue to the city to halt future licenses, but what of the 4000 couples already married? Five judges basically said 'tough luck.' The position of the court was that because the city had acted outside of its authority, the marriages were never valid to begin with, and even a decision in a later case that restrictions on marriage are unconstitutional could not revive the validity of a marriage invalid at its inception. Two judges dissented, and urged the court to wait until the appropriate constitutional challenges had been resolved.

All in all, it's an unfortunate decision for the 4000 couples who already received marriage certificates, but it means nothing one way or the other for the upcoming constitutional challenges.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:25 PM on August 12, 2004


(hopefully after Kerry is in office)

that is not a certainty, and still seems as close as 2000 was.

As for 'unelected' judges.. I'll concur with the comment to have a civics course. The Judicial arm, and how it is structured in the Constitution is one of the key pillars of our society as a republic.

Checks and balances.

And the process of appeals, such the scorn when we talk of child molestors and murderers, is there for precisely this reason.

(on preview, what monju said, as well).
posted by rich at 12:27 PM on August 12, 2004


(hopefully after Kerry is in office)

I mean because I'm hopeful he's in office--I hardly expect it will go to the supreme court any time before the election.
posted by The God Complex at 12:39 PM on August 12, 2004


Gang o' mine ... Please note that there is no trace of satisfaction, condescension or snarkiness when I ask: Are you really surprised by this decision? Though I'm not particularly in favor of "gay marriage", neither am I hostile. It's an issue that demands a full hearing and if it is to become law it deserves to be welcomed in through the front door -- NOT sneaked in through the back by exploiting legal loopholes.
posted by RavinDave at 12:42 PM on August 12, 2004


I think it's real shame what the queers are doing to the soil.

*clucks tongue, shakes head*
posted by dhoyt at 12:43 PM on August 12, 2004


turn off your television and sign up for a remedial civics course.

I have to agree with quonsar here. Maybe there's something Yankee they put in the water up here, but I can't imagine having elected judges making decisions that matter. There was an episode of Frontline a while back that cemented this for me.
posted by yerfatma at 12:50 PM on August 12, 2004


I was merely busting chops. I'm on your side. Relax.

For someone who lives near New York, your stereotypes seem a bit, well, provincial.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:52 PM on August 12, 2004


Next thing you know, the Daleks will be deployed to exterminate the 4000 couples that did get married.

EXTERMINATE!
EXTERMINATE!
EXTERMINATE!
posted by a3matrix at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2004


armitage, I know that. I've drank in gay bars, mainly for the ego boost. I know the stereotypes have zero foundation in reality

I was merely making fun of the idea that people would "have to be gay" and goofing on the idea of how ridiculous the stereotypes are in the first place and lower the fear factor. Using humor to point up the absurd is kinda what I do.

But as far as provincialism goes, the outer boroughs of NYC can be as provincial as any hamlet in Alabama in many ways. This can be good in some ways: neighborhood cohesion, a relief from blase cosmopolitanism, etc; and bad in others: prejudices, suspicion of outsiders, etc.
posted by jonmc at 12:59 PM on August 12, 2004


Fair enough. Props for not taking the 'New York is Manhattan' bait :)
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2004


It's weird to think this decision may have broken up 4,000 marriages today. I thought they were trying to defend marriages not dissolve them?

Nice observation. Of course what is really being defended is the right of control.
posted by rushmc at 1:03 PM on August 12, 2004


cool. as a fellow noo yawker you'll appreciate this story.
posted by jonmc at 1:05 PM on August 12, 2004


So far as I know, cities can not make laws that will then apply to an entire state. The issue is at this point tricky but will soon go to Supreme Court (the Bush Court): if two gays get legally married in Mass, where gay marriage is legal, and they then move to Calif., are they still married? If Calif says no, then the Supremes will decide. At this point, most Americans do not favor gay marriage but a majority of Americans also do not favor a change in the Consitution...
posted by Postroad at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2004


NOT sneaked in through the back by exploiting legal loopholes.

14th. Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
posted by callmejay at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2004


The fact remains that a judge who is not accountable to anyone for his decision is no better at making the decision than politicians who are accountable. If you don't trust politicians to make the appropriate decision, why would you trust a judge?

Written reasoning doesn't ensure that an appropriate response is reached. In fact, you can have several courts across the nation address exactly the same problem and come to diametrically opposed answers based on the same precedents. Politicians have to contend with opposition, allowing different viewpoints to be heard and debated.

Personally, I'd rather have a directly accountable person change the laws (through the appropriate legislative process) than a person who is not.

As to the matter at hand, the court seems to have decided it purely on whether the city official was legally competent to determine which state laws are and are not constitutional. They said no. I think that's the right decision. The Mayor of San Francisco had no right to usurp that power, regardless of the cause he was supporting.
posted by CRS at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2004


It's an issue that demands a full hearing and if it is to become law it deserves to be welcomed in through the front door -- NOT sneaked in through the back by exploiting legal loopholes.

That's a crock. The courts have always led the way in ensuring justice and equality for all in America. Mixed-race marriage would still be illegal if it wasn't for courts. We'd still have slavery....and on and on. It's not sneaking anywhere to use all means necessary to get our rights. It's funny that the courts are evil when they do something that some people are afraid of, yet not evil when it comes to things like the Florida election case.
posted by amberglow at 1:09 PM on August 12, 2004


oops--scratch the slavery thing. This bs that using the legal system is somehow sneaky is way too annoying.
posted by amberglow at 1:13 PM on August 12, 2004


I'm sorry, amber, but your side is exploiting technicalities and playing angles. In a sense, that's "using" the legal system, but it's certainly not the sense I meant. You rob your position of legitimacy when you resort to that. Some people (the Florida2000 crowd) are perfectly happy to do that when the results suits their cause. I'm not very comfortable with that approach for ANY issue. I'm simply advocating a going by the numbers.
posted by RavinDave at 1:29 PM on August 12, 2004


Did Governor McGreevey just come out on CNN or am i dreaming?

RavinDave, going by the numbers when the majority doesn't want certain groups to have the same rights they do isn't good enough.
posted by amberglow at 1:32 PM on August 12, 2004


it's not just you, amberglow. i don't have a TV here but a couple of friends confirmed it... i'm waiting to see how it develops.
posted by nath at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2004


Leave the Daleks out of this.
posted by davros42 at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2004


the love of those 4,000+ cannot be put asunder by a mere judge. no, these marriages are not null and void; the law is.

/soapbox
posted by moonbird at 2:57 PM on August 12, 2004


CRS - here's one reason we don't give elected officials 100% free reign to remake the law as they see fit. A lot of people would like to define "democracy" as the "rule by majority," but in fact it is "rule by the people." Some of those people are going to have minority opinions about things, or actually be some kind of ethnic or social minority themselves. Since they are part of "The People" too, their rights must be protected, even in defiance of the majority at times.

Basic majority rule isn't all that different from mob rule. If we gave absolute power to anyone who could rally 51% of the population, what would happen to everyone else? Setting some basic rules in stone (the Constitution) and then relying on unelected judges to interpret them over time is, in fact, one of the ways that the power of the majority is prevented from harming the rights of the minority.

In other words: you can't let every single decision in a society go to a vote. That sounds un-American and all, but it isn't. Not to condescend to you as he did, but Quonsar is right in that a basic civcis course will cover this in detail.

Lighten up, Francis.

Any of you faggots get married...

and I'll kill you.
posted by scarabic at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2004


Not to condescend to you as he did, but Quonsar is right in that a basic civcis course will cover this in detail.

yeah, my trigger got tripped by the (inadvertent?) use of the recent propaganda phrase "unelected judges". you know, the people currently in charge are attempting to sully the word "unelected" in the same manner as they've managed to turn the word "liberal" into an epithet.
posted by quonsar at 3:59 PM on August 12, 2004


Yeah, the last thing you want is elected judges. Really.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2004


All this talk of the righteousness of appointments is pure myth.

Choosing state judges in nonpartisan elections isn't so bad. That's not what happened in the case of Roy Moore. He was elected in a general, partisan election after winning a Republican primary.

Now, a highly relevant comparison of elected v. appointed justices: In a time not too long ago, a previous high court also upheld Georgia's sodomy law. Who overturned the state law? Georgia's own high court, which is an elected body. Its elections are nonpartisan.
posted by raysmj at 5:17 PM on August 12, 2004


Leave the Daleks out of this.

Maybe the Cybermen?
posted by a3matrix at 5:41 PM on August 12, 2004


aren't most local judges elected? and aren't most of the appointed federal judges those who have won local elections? i don't think it's a great idea, either, just saying ...

on preview: raysmj beat me to it.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:41 PM on August 12, 2004


Bravo Supreme Court! If you want to overturn history, at least do it through the legislature.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:35 PM on August 12, 2004


like Bush did in 2000, Paris?
posted by amberglow at 8:42 PM on August 12, 2004


Cazart! amberglow wins.
posted by jokeefe at 8:45 PM on August 12, 2004


RazinDave, if you'd like to justify your statement that you're "not particularly in favor of gay marriage" -- which to my ears sounds just like "I'm not particularly in favor of these colored boys sharing my water fountain" -- I'm listening.
posted by digaman at 9:07 PM on August 12, 2004


are those colored boys gay?
posted by quonsar at 10:06 PM on August 12, 2004


digaman ... I hope you're not the type to lump all dissenters into one simplistic group. My liberal creds are up-to-date. My view is not the type that would be echoed in NewsMax. I don't give a hoot about the "morality" aspect that has the Falwells of the world foaming. However, I do maintain that certain rituals, traditions, archetypes, beliefs and values that are so ingrained in a society that they are not to be blithly dismissed. Put another way: there are certain things that a given society not only has the right to decide for itself -- but that it "must" work through together. It's how we grow as a people. You cannot impose such a drastic change by legislative fiat without inviting a massive backlash. And yes, sometimes society makes mistakes. Sometimes we make bad choices. But please don't try to trot out "slavery" or "child labor laws" or "interracial marriage" as equivilancies -- each of these issues were hard-won victories and they went through the exact protracted public debate that is altogether missing here. I look at this and I see an impatient MTV-generation screaming for immediate instant approval of their particular agenda. Instead of working for substantive incremental change (eg: strong civil union rights), you want to skip the preliminaries and jump to the finale. I'm sorry, but in my personal view, the proposed changes are drastic enough that no matter how noble the goal may be, you can't gloss over the intermediate steps. It will take time. It will be frustrating. That's unavoidable. But it's the only legitimate way to affect substantive change.
posted by RavinDave at 10:46 PM on August 12, 2004


It's a good day for bigots everywhere.

I think you mean that it's a good day for people who recognize that our nation is built on laws, which were ignored by Gavin Newsom in February and March. The opposite decision would have flown in the face of the actual law, which, last time I heard, is what the courts are there to uphold. And they have.

With that said, I'm not opposed to changing the law, but I am very much opposed to bringing in changes to the law before they actually exist.
posted by oaf at 2:59 AM on August 13, 2004


Some of you people are freakin incredible, seriously. RavinDave, in couched terms, is implying that allowing gays to marry will bring about the end of modern American civilization, and that gay people are somehow taking a "side" of special interests. Yeah, I'm on a "side," the side of equality for all people in this country, true equality. This smacks to me of people who just can't admit they have deep-seated bigotries and fears about gayness. It shouldn't even matter to you that there are "gay" people who want to get married. What should matter to you is that a demographic is being kept from a franchise that benefits a whole other demographic in numerous ways for reasons of "my morality trumps yours" and "because it's just always been this way." But you can sleep tonight because your "liberal creds are up to date." Bravo on you. I guess that is just the difference between me and a lot of people I see commenting on this issue. I'll stand up for everyone's dignities and rights even if it doesn't directly impact my personal life.

I look at this and I see an impatient MTV-generation screaming for immediate instant approval of their particular agenda. Instead of working for substantive incremental change (eg: strong civil union rights), you want to skip the preliminaries and jump to the finale.

You can bite me with all of this BS. Who are you to say when a struggle becomes legitimate and worthy of the end result? What is the time frame? What is the beginning point? Stonewall, or Oscar Wilde's trial? Change in all areas of life are happening faster today because of the way people communicate now. Instead of making reasons why we shouldn't change, how about just becoming the change you want to see, unless, of course, you really don't want to see the change, to which I refer you to my original comment.

I'm not opposed to changing the law, but I am very much opposed to bringing in changes to the law before they actually exist.

I don't even know what that means. What is the "they" that you are referring to?

Just a whole lot of people using excuses to hide their bigotries instead of stepping up, recognizing they have a bias and dealing with it honestly. How does it feel to be on that side of the closet?
posted by archimago at 6:41 AM on August 13, 2004


Ravin, your language about this is very loaded, to say the least. And civil unions are a second-class solution, one no other group of Americans is subject to. It is the equivalent of the colored water fountain or back of the bus, which is not equal. Either we're equal, or we're not. There are no intermediate steps that haven't been taken--people have rallied, protested, approached marriage bureaus all over the country, lobbied for it, been arrested for it, gone to court over it, etc....This is not appearing out of nowhere, but has been going on for well over a decade. The marriages in Hawaii were a long time ago. Many people have been in stable loving relationships for decades and decades, with none of the rights straight people in quickie marriages a la Britney get, and it's affected their lives and the lives of their families for the worse.

How many decades is it appropriate to deny people rights they want, and are entitled to? You tell us.
posted by amberglow at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2004


Informed, consensual interactions between adults should never be subject to laws.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 AM on August 13, 2004


looks like Australia's full of bigots too
posted by amberglow at 4:19 PM on August 13, 2004


I don't think anyone has ever questioned that, amberglow. There's more than just their gay marriage ban as a factor in their bigotry.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:22 PM on August 13, 2004


It's sad--soon i'll be left with only you Canadians to look up to, and have my country aspire to. ; >
posted by amberglow at 6:32 PM on August 13, 2004


Isn't it ironic, amber, that (judging by your other posts) I'll be voting for someone who supports gay marriage, and you'll be voting for someone who opposes it.
posted by RavinDave at 12:47 AM on August 14, 2004


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