Same-sex marriage is legal in 5 states and the District of Columbia as of the end of 2009. In others, gay couples have the option of entering into a domestic partnership, though often there are significant legal differences between that and marriage.
"Being able to call him my husband is so definitive," said Paul Katami, one of the men who is suing for the right to marry his partner.
District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker spent the day this week asking lawyers questions, basically challenging them to legitimize their arguments before the case starts.
In court, the standard arguments were made, with defenders of Prop 8 arguing that there is a long history of defining marriage as between a man and a woman and that the fact that they can procreate is one reason why it makes sense. The lawyers arguing in favor of legalizing same sex marriage, however, framed their argument as a continuation and extension of civil rights battles, saying that marriage is a fundamental right and that the gay and lesbian community in fact deserves protection from discrimination.
"This speaks not ill will or animosity toward gays and lesbians but a special regard for this venerable institution," said Charles Cooper in defense of Prop 8. His point and his side’s argument is that the Proposition was passed legally and does not necessarily mean opposition to people who are gay.
Umm… how so, Charles?
Lawyer Ted Olson, arguing in favor of legalizing same sex marriage, referenced the top when asked by the judge for evidence that marriage law changes had improved the institution of marriage- look at the President of the United States. And it’s a good argument- it was not until 1967 that a Supreme Court ruling made interracial unions legal in the state of Virginia. If such unions were not legal, our president would not be, technically, legal.
Opposing council responded to the point by saying: “The limitation of marriage to a man and a woman is something that has been universal. It has been across history, across cultures, across society. The loathsome restrictions based on race are of an entirely different nature."
Which is all kinds of not true. The idea that gay marriage has been illegal universally, across history, cultures and society is simply not true. There is a history of same sex unions in both Roman and Chinese culture, and since the year 2000 The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Norway, Sweden and South Africa have all legalized same sex marriages.
There is hope that the case will make it to the federal Supreme Court and set a national precedent. A loss at this point would be damaging to the movements in other states to legalize same sex marriage.
Photo Credit: Dave Fayram (via Flickr under CCL)