By Alex Emslie
Emotions flared outside the California Supreme Court as it heard arguments on March 5 concerning the constitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban and the fate of 18,000 marriages conducted before the passage of Proposition 8 in November.
Demonstrations opposing the proposition began on the evening of March 4 with a candle-light march from Harvey Milk Plaza, at Castro and Market streets, to the State Supreme Court building at the Civic Center. Thousands more from both sides of the debate gathered outside the court building on the morning of March 5 to watch the hearings live on a large screen outside City Hall.
“There was only one JumboTron to show what was going on inside, so people on both sides of the issue were standing side by side. It was really uncomfortable,” said Thomas Paras, a City College music major. “There were a lot of small verbal disagreements that happened in that area. Some of them were on the verge of turning ugly.”
Psychologist Dr. Davina Kotulski, advisory board member and former executive director of Marriage Equality USA, was present at both demonstrations. Kotulski first married her spouse, Molly McKay, media director for Marriage Equality USA, in a private ceremony in 1998. The couple married again — this time legally — on Feb. 12, 2004, but their marriage was declared invalid by the California Supreme Court Aug. 12, 2004. They married a third time on Sept. 1, 2008.
“What I am certain of is that whether the courts repeal Prop. 8 or whether they [uphold] it, we’re not stopping. We’re not going to be second-class citizens. We’re going to continue until lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are treated with the equality and respect that we deserve as American citizens,” Kotulski said.
“Our purpose for being there was to defend our country, our state, our culture and society from homosexual marriage entering our education system,” said Don J. Grundmann, director of the American Warrior Ministry and Proposition 8 supporter. “Basically, I’m coming from the position that homosexuality is an emotional pathology that results from the collapse of the family. It’s an emotional choice resulting from a pathology, so it has absolutely nothing to do with physical DNA. Therefore, it’s not a civil right.”
The law offices of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg represented two same-sex couples — one married and one not — before the Supreme Court. On her efforts in Tyler v. State of California — one of three cases included in the hearings — Gloria Allred said, “We presented the best possible arguments that we could present. Now it will be for the court to decide the issue.” The Supreme Court is required to rule within 90 days of conducting hearings.
Kenneth Starr, representing The Official Proponents of Proposition 8, argued the democratic majority should have the power to change any rights protected by their constitution. “I do believe that people should have the power to amend,” Allred said, “but that doesn’t mean they have the power to amend fundamental constitutional rights out of the constitution for a group that has suffered a history of discrimination.”
That history of discrimination compelled the Supreme Court to designate gays and lesbians as protected by suspect classification on May 15, 2008. The- “In Re-marriage Cases,” overturned California’s statutory same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 22.
Legislation under suspect classification forces the state to prove a necessary and compelling interest in order to abridge a certain group’s rights. “There’s no loss of rights to opposite sex couples by allowing same-sex couples to marry, but if same-sex couples are not allowed to marry it does relegate them to second class citizenship,” said Allred.
“The homosexual movement, once again, when they can’t achieve what they want at the ballot box, go through the courts and try to circumvent the role of the voters,” Grundmann said. “From my understanding of the legal [arguments], they will not win this time.” He continued, “Largely from past precedent, it’s very likely that Proposition 8 will be upheld.”
“This fight’s not over, regardless of how it comes down,” said City College student Carlos Wilson. “Whether we have to take it back to the polls, or they have to take it to the legislature, this isn’t the end of it in any way.”
“The whole point of the constitution is to protect minorities against the whims of the majority. The majority can always exercise its power and do whatever it wants. Minorities need to be protected against discrimination and against abuse of that power by the majority; against the tyranny of the majority.” Allred concluded, “It has widespread implications, and it’s dangerous for the future. That’s why there’s so much at stake.”