Day of Decision

Who could have guessed that this would be the path of Proposition 8?

Just over a year ago, the California Supreme Court declares same-sex marriages legal, but before even the first one has a chance to be performed, a coalition of religious groups qualifies a ballot initiative to ban it. But through the summer there’s a stream of same-sex couples to the altar, from famous names like Ellen and Star Trek’s Sulu to a couple who had been together since Eisenhower was president.

Then, voters in true blue California pass Proposition 8, a shocking development that defied conventional wisdom, although it’s mitigated by the fact that the state’s initiative system hasn’t exactly helped the Golden State stay solvent.

Same sex marriage supporters take to the streets, chant at Mormon Temples, boycott Prop 8 donors and disrupt traffic — surely the best organized belated campaign of the year — while leaders challenge the entire validity of Prop 8. The California Supreme Court takes the case, and the No on 8 movement gets a surprising ally in the form of state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

But the Prop 8 proponents secure none other than Ken Starr to argue their case, as well as their contention that some 18,000 marriages already performed should not be recognized. In oral arguments before the justices, his smooth skills are in contrast to a shaky series of arguments from the No on 8 side, and the conventional wisdom coming out of it is that the proposition will be upheld.

Then, in the months that follow, Maine and Vermont pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage, New York and New Hampshire consider it and, putting most gay meccas to shame, Iowa begins to allow the gay nuptials. Marriage is legal in Sioux City, not Silver Lake.

The march toward marriage appears to be unstoppable, overcoming even a National Organization for Marriage ad that warns that a “storm is coming” if something isn’t done, apparently forgetting the states that would jump at the chance in the interest of drought relief.

But just when you thought that the momentum had swung entirely toward same-sex marriage comes an unlikely new face for the other side, Miss California. It’s she who proves an unstoppable force, eclipsing not just Perez Hilton but state pageant officials who can’t find any reason to wrest the crown away from her. When the inevitable scandalous photos are found as potentially damning evidence, Donald Trump comes to her rescue and accepts her explanation that she merely got caught up in a bad gust of wind. Or maybe it was the storm that was coming.

And now the decision is coming, what will be the end of this chapter of Proposition 8 but the first day of the rest of the marriage battle. If Prop 8 is overturned, there is some worry of a backlash of “domestic terrorism” proportions. If it is upheld, there surely will be protests, but also a new ballot initiative. The question is when — 2010 or 2012.

As for the marriages on the books, I can only speak for myself, married just under two weeks before the election. The whole idea of a court ruling on the validity of so many marriages is just plain bizarre. If my marriage is ruled valid, it will be an end to a certain degree of uncertainty. If it is ruled invalid, it will be an end to a certain degree of uncertainty. The latter would certainly be a shame, but it’s not like I’m going to suddenly stop calling my husband “husband,” or that that my family will, or that we’d start dividing property, or that straight couples will suddenly stop getting divorces in the state. That’s not to say that marriage is meaningless; rather, it is just the opposite.

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