Larry Greenfield

California’s voters passed state law Proposition 22, in 2000, with 61 percent of the vote: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized.”

In 2008, the state Supreme Court overturned the law as discriminatory, so the voters spoke again. With 52 percent of the vote, Californians amended their state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This time, in 2009, the state’s high court upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Gay marriage advocates then went to federal court, and one U.S. District Court Judge, Vaughn Walker, a Reagan appointee, ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage violated federal guarantees of due process and equal protection, and unconstitutionally enshrined opposite-sex couples as “superior.”

Walker did not reveal that he was gay. His ruling was affirmed by the U.S. 9th Circuit in San Francisco, and the U.S. Supreme Court will now hear arguments and rule on Prop. 8.

31 states affirm only opposite-sex marriage, and 9 states plus the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Almost universally, ancient laws against cohabitation or property sharing have been repealed for all couples.

The state debates on same-sex marriage have been thorough with legal scholars, religious leaders, and politicians all chiming in.

President Obama switched from opposition to endorsement of same-sex marriage, as did U.S. Senator Portman, (R-OH); after his son came out as gay (can one maintain long-held principle and loyalty to family?). Hillary Clinton produced a patronizing video for the Human Rights Campaign, and Meg Whitman, former candidate for Governor of California, publicized her new support for same-sex marriage.

Many Americans have at least partial sympathy for the merits of both sides.

On the one hand, traditional marriage seeks to promote male-female relationships that produce and care for children, encourage an economic division of labor, maintain gender distinction, and focus men on commitment to family life.

Some advocates of same-sex marriage embrace the marital institution and wish to conserve family values. Others contend that freedom to marry for gays is mandated by notions of equality and fair treatment under the law, and that religious objections to gay sexuality should not result in legal discrimination against private love lives. One wonders if this theory will also argue for polygamy.

Larry Greenfield

Larry Greenfield is fellow in American studies at the Claremont Institute, and senior fellow of the American Freedom Alliance. He is founding executive director of the Reagan Legacy Foundation, and he served in the Armed Forces in U.S. Naval Intelligence (Res.). He holds degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and the Georgetown University Law Center.