California Declares Marriage Equality for All
Statement on In re Marriage Cases decision
Today is the day we’ve been working for—a watershed for basic fairness and human dignity. The California Supreme Court has recognized that equality means that everyone must be free to marry the person they love.
Profound social change starts in California, and does not end here. It influences the rest of the nation. Today’s decision means that Californians will extend the franchise of fairness to gay and lesbian couples who enter into the committed, loving relationship we call “marriage.” And this decision will take its rightful historic place alongside those that have formally recognized what we, as Americans, have always aspired to: a more perfect, more egalitarian union of free people, free to choose our destiny, including whom to marry.
Californians consider bans on interracial marriage an embarrassing relic of bigotry—and so does the rest of the country. But in 1948, when the California Supreme Court struck down the state law barring interracial marriage, it blazed a brave new path for California and the nation. That decision changed California, and then it changed America.
Today’s pioneering decision heralds a sea change in California history, and it will spark profound shifts in American society. The California Supreme Court is the most influential state high court in the country. Other courts cite and follow its opinions more than any other. Today’s thoughtful decision will inspire other rulings that will knock down arbitrary barriers to the fundamental right to marry.
But this is not simply about the law or about history. This is about friends and family. People we know. People we love.
Americans believe in treating people fairly. With gay and lesbian married couples living in California, I know our neighbors in other states will see that marriage equality should be a familiar reality everywhere. Not eventually, but now. Because banning loving gay and lesbian couples from marrying doesn’t square with that most basic American value: fairness.
With this historic decision, California is not ahead of its time. We are right on time. Equality will not wait any longer.
Maya Harris is the former Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California.