Today I read in the paper about the first gay marriages to take place today after the California Supreme Court ruling making it legal in the state. The San Francisco Chronicle has had a series of articles on the history of the gay marriage debate, on the work of attorneys willing to fight for the right and on priests willing to perform the marriage services, and on the change in attitudes of the institution of marriage among the gay and lesbian community. I think the San Francisco Chronicle has done a great job of educating the public on the history of the gay marriage debate, showing both sides of the issue and giving a good reason as to why it is so important for the gay and lesbian community.
Wyatt Buchanan wrote an article showing the developing attitudes among gays and lesbians on the institution of marriage. For much of the 4 decade history of the gay rights movement, marriage was viewed by many activists as an outdated institution to be dismantled and not to be pursued. They shared the social and economic critiques of marriage of the 1970s feminist thinking: they saw marriage as an institution that subjugated women and children under men. This attitude changed during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. As gays died of AIDS, their partners often found themselves barred from their partner’s funerals and with no rights to their belongings. The LGBT community began to appreciate the traditions of marriage and wanted to have equal access to participate.
Matthai Kuruvila wrote of the roles of Bay Area priests in blessing same sex marriages over the past 3 decades. These were often clandestine ceremonies, to shield both the priests and the marriage couple from the disapproval of both the church hierarchy and the congregation. Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi were married in 1990 at the First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, California, and it changed the minds of many of the congregation to be more supportive of gay rights. While Catholic, Evangelical, and the more conservative Christian churches in the San Francisco area have led efforts to ban gay marriages, some liberal Christian churches have taken steps to incorporate same sex marriages. The United Church of Christ ordains gay clergy and marries homosexual couples with the same rite used for heterosexual couples. The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Churches both have gay clergy and bless same sex unions, although they use differents rites than they use for heterosexual couples.
Bob Egelko focuses his Chronicle article on Therese Stewart and Shannon Minter, the two leading attorneys in the lawsuits that toppled the California ban on same sex marriages. Stewart is a San Francisco chief deputy city attorney who has worked on many social issues on behalf of the city. Minter is a lawyer from Texas who has devoted his career to defending the rights of gays and lesbians, and to transgender people in particular. Minter is a transgender himself, while Steward hopes to marry her partner during the Fall in a government sanctioned wedding. Both have earned the respect of their opposition lawyer, Robert Tyler, who praised them for their legal skills and their ability to stay civil.
The judge who made the deciding vote for uplifting the ban is California Chief Justice Ronald George, a moderate Republican appointed by Pete Wilson in 1991. He has likened this ruling to the 1948 state ruling striking down a California law banning interracial marriage. George felt that anti-gay bias laws are akin to race or sex discrimination and that will have wide repurcussions to court cases in other states. George wrote the marriage opinion because he felt that the chief justice’s job is to take the heat for controversial rulings. He expects to be a target the next time he stands for election to the court in 2010.
I personally am gratified to see this court ruling. Two friends of mine, Connie and D.J. took part in the San Francisco weddings in 2004 that Mayor Newsom opened up briefly. And one of my closest friends, Eric, has been involved with gay and lesbian issues as a member of GLAAD. When he came out of the closet, he’s done his best to educate his friends on the issues that the LGBT community has faced.
My wife subscribed to the San Francisco Chronicle early this year when she was walking through an art and wine festival. It’s a wonderful paper. I’ve heard that newspapers are struggling with circulation as more people are turning to the internet for news. I think we’d lose a lot if our newspapers and magazines disappeared and a great tradition of journalism were no longer around to prod our politicians and business leaders. The Chronicle will be covering the same sex weddings this week on sfgate.com/samesexmarriage.