If California’s elected officials are a microcosm of the state’s population, they proved it after Wednesday’s same-sex marriage rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. Democrats rejoiced – including many gay lawmakers who’ve led the push for marriage equality. Many Republicans searched for an appropriate response, and some expressed frustration. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.
Gavin Newsom might be the best-known supporter of same-sex marriage in the country – even though he is straight. It was Newsom who, as mayor of San Francisco, unilaterally decided to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in 2004. And it was Newsom who, after the California Supreme Court temporarily legalized same-sex marriage in 2008, gave this famous quote that would be used to help pass Proposition 8’s gay marriage ban later that year:
“This door’s wide open now – it’s gonna happen, whether you like it or not,” said Newsom.
Now, same-sex marriage will happen in California after yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings. And Newsom, who’s currently Lieutenant Governor, once again spent the morning at San Francisco City Hall as he awaited the news.
“It was a remarkable place to be, because it was that bookmark to 2004 – a lot of the same faces, a lot of familiar themes,” says Newsom.
Newsom says he never thought back then that this day would come – much as he’d like to say he did. But now, he believes June 26th, 2013 will prove a tipping point in the national debate. Just look at opinion polls:
“An increasing number of people that were opposed, saying, you know what? This hasn’t destroyed the institution of marriage in those 11, 12 other states. Let’s move forward,” says Newsome.
“Well, thank you very much – and I am ready to say yes to the dress,” says Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. He is one of many openly gay California lawmakers who say they had an emotional morning. Many exchanged phone calls and texts as the rulings came out. Others recalled all the failed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. And some began preparing for a wedding. Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman says she and her partner of 31 years have waited to get married until it was recognized under federal law. They’re also preparing to raise a five-year-old who’s about to become parentless.
“My partner’s family is very Republican, very conservative and very Pentacostal. And when we talked about who would raise this child, they looked to nobody but us – as the people who were the most stable, who were the most able to provide a loving home, that we would do that – and we, of course, will,” says Talamantes Eggman.
While legislative Democrats rushed to praise the ruling, Republicans mostly remained quiet. Only a few issued statements, like Senator Joel Anderson who recorded one:
“I’ll continue to defend the traditional definition of marriage – that is, a marriage between one man and one woman.”
Other Republicans were more conflicted, like Senator Jean Fuller. “I spent the afternoon searching the scriptures trying to figure out how I’m going to relate to this new law," says Fuller.
Fuller says she and other lawmakers discussed the rulings at Bible Study. “It goes to the core of what I believe. So it’s gonna take a little bit of time to study and figure out the appropriate response, actually,” says Fuller.
And some Republicans focused their criticism on the high court’s determination that Prop 8 couldn’t be defended in court, because the governor and attorney general refused to do so. Senator Jim Nielsen says that could have a long-lasting effect on future ballot measures.
“It undermines the initiative. It undermines the people’s right. That’s one of the more enduring concerns I have about this – as well as its impact on the family,” says Nielsen.
Nielsen says he expects Prop 8 supporters to fight this ruling – or perhaps turn to another ballot measure. In the meantime, it’ll likely take at least 25 days before same-sex marriages become legal in California. As soon as they do, county clerks can begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples – and Governor Jerry Brown has ordered them to do so.