The California Ruling Comes Out On Marriage. What Do You Do?

The clock is ticking down on the California Supreme Court’s ruling on whether same-sex couples can marry. The Court heard oral arguments on March 4 of this year and can issue a decision between now and June 2.

Meanwhile, anti-gay groups aren’t waiting on the decision to mobilize. They’ve reportedly gathered enough signatures for a November ballot measure that would write discrimination into the California Constitution by barring same-sex couples from marriage.

They’re gearing up for a fight. Let’s not give them the tools to fight it.

In our ongoing struggle for equality, our community has always responded to the challenges and opportunities before us with both tenacity and strategic savvy.

In 1969, a small band of LGBT people in New York took a bold stance of resistance against habitual police harassment — and spawned a movement.

In 1988, National Coming Out Day was founded in Los Angeles to recognize that a life lived in the closet is fundamentally more dangerous than living openly and honestly as an LGBT person.

Through the history of our movement, we’ve calibrated our actions and response to the needs of the community and to the politics of the times. Now, as we await the ruling from the state Supreme Court, we must ask ourselves: How do we present an honest and accurate picture of our community to California?

Because that picture will inform how people think and feel about the Court’s decision.

Polling research consistently shows that 20- and 30-something Californians are more accepting of marriage for same-sex couples. Then there are people who are adamantly opposed to any measure of equal protection for LGBT people.

But there is also an extremely important group of voters who feel genuinely conflicted on the marriage issue. These fence-sitters are very supportive of workplace non-discrimination policies. Some support civil unions. But they stop short of embracing full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

This is because, like most everyone else, they have a deeply held idea about what marriage means to them. These values give marriage a particular cultural and personal significance in ways that other issues don’t.

To win in November, we will need to win over the support of those undecided voters.

So when the state’s highest court announces its ruling, what do you do?

Express your joy or your frustration with dignity and resoluteness. If we win, history will be made, and we will bear witness to a huge sea change in our culture and in the lives of people we know and love. Our response needs to match this moment. Let’s play our own hand instead of playing into someone else’s.

Win or lose, contact ten individuals friends, family, co-workers in your personal network and tell them what the ruling means to you. Nothing hits home like a message delivered by someone close to you.

Go public. Write a letter to the editor in your local paper. The letters page attracts more eyeballs than many other sections of the paper. Blog or comment on the Internet. Make your views part of the public debate.

Join the fight against hate. Equality for All, the coalition-led effort against the constitutional measure, needs your help. If you have money to give, give it. The battle for California’s vote will be costly, and every dollar counts. If you have time to spare, spare it. Fight for a California that stands up for fairness and freedom. The freedom to realize our hopes and dreams. The opportunity to marry the person we love.

One of the great things about California is that we don’t let history write our future. One of the great things about the LGBT community is that we have each other’s interests at heart. Because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. We rise and fall based on our ability to stand together to make the change we want to see in the world.

In less than 20 days, these two tributaries the future of our community and the larger community of Californians will meet. The impending ballot measure all but ensures even more perilous water ahead. Let’s make sure that we harness our power to keep moving forward.


  • Oscar De La O, President & Chief Executive Officer, Bienestar
  • Maya Harris, Executive Director, ACLU of Northern California
  • Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer, The San Diego LGBT Community Center
  • Lorri L. Jean, Chief Executive Officer, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
  • Kate Kendell, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director, Equality California
  • Andy Wong, Director, API Equality