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Marital Bliss: California ruling sets example worth following

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 12:00 am

Last week, the California Supreme Court handed down a historic ruling regarding one of the most divisive issues of our time: gay marriage.

In a sweeping decision that is sure to provide plenty of election year fodder for political pugilists on both sides, the California court declared marriage to be a fundamental right for all citizens, regardless of sexual preference.

Chief Justice Ronald George wrote that "in contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation.''

The decision overturns a voter-approved constitutional amendment and makes the Golden State just the second state to provide all of its citizens with the right to marry - the other being Massachusetts, which did so back in 2004.

While California ventures into a brave new world of greater social equality, our state stands on the precipice of descending (even further) into the dark ages.

This fall, Florida voters will be asked to decide whether a ban on same-sex marriage should be added to the constitution via popular referendum.

If passed, Amendment 2 would restrict marriage to "the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife."

Wait a minute. The Florida Legislature passed a ban on gay marriage all the way back in 1997. Why the hell would we need to pass a law that's already been codified?

While advocates of "family values" point to the actions of "activist judges" - such as those in California and Massachusetts - as justification for fortifying Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, we view the proposed amendment as part of more insidious machinations.

In recent years, Republicans have used the issue of gay marriage as a wedge issue in hopes of driving throngs of social conservatives to the polls.

This strategy was instrumental in President Bush's re-election in 2004, when 11 states placed constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage on their respective ballots. Conservative voters flocked to the polls four years ago to ensure that a segment of their countrymen and women would be discriminated against. The measures overwhelmingly passed in all 11 states.

Yet, even more than its utility as a Republican vote manufacturer, Amendment 2 has the added benefit (for conservatives) of possibly abrogating benefits, such as health care, altogether to members of Florida's homosexual community.

Unlike the progressive result in California, however, Michigan's justices have chosen to roll back protections for gays and lesbians.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state's ban on gay marriage also serves to prohibit state and local governments from providing same-sex partners benefits such as health care - benefits that heterosexuals freely enjoy.

The 2004 Michigan amendment isn't identical to Amendment 2. Nevertheless, the Michigan court ruling has raised concerns among gay rights activists that a similar outcome could result here if Floridians approve this draconian and redundant measure in the fall.

We hail the California justices for their courage in the face of the great wave of intolerance and ignorance that has prevented most of the country from granting equal protection of the laws to all its citizens. We hope our fellow Floridians will see Amendment 2 for what it is: a blatant political subterfuge. We would do well to follow the lead of California and reject the politics of inequality.

Welcome to the discussion.