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Column: Court Rules In The Right Direction

Heights Columnist

Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Hooray justice!

On Tuesday afternoon the 9th Circuit Court struck down California's Proposition 8, declaring it unconstitutional and dealing a heavy blow to all those who frown upon the idea of same sex couples being granted the right to marry. A member of that prestigious club includes our old friend Newt Gingrich, who immediately after the decision tweeted, "Court of Appeals overturning CA's Prop 8 another example of an out of control judiciary. Let's end judicial supremacy."

Gingrich's public outcry aside, the Circuit Court's ruling is probably not as significant as the headlines make it seem. The court maintained that it decided as it did because California had already granted both "the incidents and the official designation" of marriage to same-sex couples. Proposition 8, it argued, was essentially rescinding a right given to gays and lesbians simply because they belong to a particular social class, which isn't actually a legitimate reason to do such a thing. The court went on to say that, "Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California."

The court did not say, however, that it is unconstitutional to ever deny same-sex couples the right to marry. It merely said that once the right is granted, it cannot be taken away. The judges explicitly said in the ruling that it was not for them to answer the broader question of whether or not it's constitutional to outright deny a same-sex couple the right to marry.

Regardless, however, same-sex couples in California are still not allowed to get married until the deadline, which would allow supporters of Prop 8 to file an appeal, has passed. Even if that were to happen though, and it certainly will, marriages between same-sex couples will still remain on hold until the Supreme Court upholds the decision or takes up the case. So while the ruling represents a symbolic victory for Prop 8's opponents, it will have little effect in practice for some time to come.

What's now of great interest is whether or not this issue is going to rear its head at some point during the presidential election. Rick Santorum's clean sweep of Colorado and Minnesota's caucuses and Missouri's primary – all of which took place on Tuesday night as well – sent the frightening message to Romney and his campaign that Santorum isn't going away any time soon. Were he to get the GOP nomination, it would be bad news for same-sex couples around the nation. Santorum has already shamelessly paraded his ludicrous beliefs about gay marriage, going so far as to say that "an imprisoned father is preferable to a same-sex parent," and that he would render all current same-sex marriages invalid. Yikes.

President Barack Obama, too, opposes gay marriage, though his administration announced last year that it would no longer legally attempt to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that recognizes marriage strictly as the legal union between a man and a woman. So while the gay and lesbian community may not necessarily have a friend in Barack Obama, they don't have an outright enemy, which can't be said of whoever gets the Republican nomination. With gays and lesbians in the U.S. numbering somewhere around four million, that will be an important fact to note come November.

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