One Giant Leap for Mrs. California's Roommate?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

One Giant Leap for Mrs. California's Roommate?

I learned about the Superior Court decision striking down California's ban on same-sex marriage from Mrs. California, who was looking at the internets when I came home. Her immediate reaction was to say, "So T___'s marriage is back on, isn't it?"

T was one of Mrs. California's college roommates. Mrs. California did have an out lesbian roommate (plus a quasi-roommate in the roommate's girlfriend), but it wasn't T. T was a leading light in the Catholic Students Association and a regular churchgoer who was an out virgin on moral grounds. Imagine our surprise when she turned up at the 10th reunion with a girlfriend (and looking much happier and more relaxed than the tense T that I remembered). At the 15th, which happened while S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsome was marrying same-sex couples last year, T announced that she had been married.

So I guess that, for now, T is once again legally married. I don't think this will last, however. If the Court of Appeal doesn't reverse, it seems to me that the California Supreme Court will. My familiarity with the high court is somewhat out of date, as I last practiced in California almost ten years ago. But my sense is that it would be hard to get four votes out of the current seven to support either of the Superior Court's main arguments.

Still, gefeliciteerd, T, as they say around here to newly married couples--gay and straight alike. Indeed, the longer I live in the Netherlands, where marriage equality has prevailed for four or five years, the harder it is to believe that so many people get so het up about the concept back home. I think the key difference is not so much the Netherlands' famous tolerance as it is that civil marriage and religious marriage have been clearly distinct institutions here for decades, if not centuries. You can have a ceremony in a church if you want, but that doesn't confer the legal status of marriage. Which is why you'll often see women in wedding dresses, grooms in tuxes, and well-wishers bearing flowers at town halls around the country, since that's where the legal marriage takes place. So when same-sex couples were allowed to get the same piece of paper from town hall and place their names in the all-important register of town residents as a couple, it didn't imply anything about whether God thought the concept was a good idea. General tolerance of homosexuality certainly helps here, but I think the failure in the U.S. for people to distinguish between a religious sacrament and a legal status is a seriously complicating factor.

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