Tuesday, February 24, 2004

"Same-Sex and The City"

Speaking of a finale. Check out this Slate article on the flood of same-sex marriages being issued in San Francisco.

Long story short: gay and lesban couples have been flocking to SanFran in heards (We're talking THOUSANDS of couples. I am considering quitting this gig to become a florist in the city! Apparently florists are receiving hundreds of orders for flowers from people around the world sending flowers to couples they don't even know!) since just before V-day to get marriage liscences. Mayor Newsom, despite Schwarzenegger's condemnation and outrage (he actually said that same-sex weddings represented "an imminent risk to civil order"!), claims that under the state's constitution, banning same-sex couples from the right to marry is discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation (despite the fact that the state passed a DOMA).

The Slate article gets into the nitty-gritty of whether and when cities can, in fact, defy state law. Ford concludes that although there are some situations in which cities can defy state or federal law, none of them apply in this case.

Ultimately its the state and not the city that has the power to marry--the city performs marriages as an agent of the state. In the legal metaphysics of local power, the city simply doesn't have any authority in this area that the state doesn't give it. A city can't license marriages that the state does not recognize.

He argues instead that the city should have stopped granting marriage licenses to ANYONE.

This may sound spiteful ("If gay couples can't get married, no one can!"), but a moratorium on marriage could be a responsible temporary measure that would avoid the discrimination, while waiting for the courts to settle on the issue.

That way they would have focused the argument on the constitution and on due process rather than violating state law.

Either way, the moves are symbolic. But I disagree with Slate here when they say that

...purporting to license same-sex marriage is an odd form of civil disobedience: It has the look and feel of a lunch counter sit-in, but it replaces the elements of sacrifice and risk with what looks like political patronage.

Sure, he's the mayor of the gayest city in the universe, and so probably not in danger of being ousted from his current office, but let's see him try for any state or federal office. In any case, he's my hero du jour. Symbolic or no, this positive gesture (giving rights as opposed to taking them away) will alter the social lanscape. Bush claims that an "overwhelming" majority of Americans oppose gay marriage. According to recent polls, 60% of Americans oppose gay marriage while a similar overwhelming majority supports civil unions, but who's counting?

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