The debate over same-sex marriage is certain to heat up again over the summer and into the fall election season. Why?
First, following the California Supreme Court’s mandate that same-sex marriages commence on June 17, thousands of homosexual couples will get married there. Many of them will not be from California, however, for unlike Massachusetts, the first state to have court-mandated same-sex marriage, California has no prior law prohibiting out-of-state couples from coming there to get married and then returning to their state of residence claiming wedded bliss.
So, soon after June 17, same-sex couples will be returning to Tulsa, Little Rock, Peoria, Memphis, Baton Rouge, Cheyenne, Charleston, Richmond, Indianapolis, Akron, Battle Creek, Nashua, Syracuse and hundreds of other cities across America, California marriage license in hand, and demanding that their unions be recognized in their state of residence.
This will be a hot news item in cities from coast to coast, especially when those state authorities refuse to do so under the laws of their state. Same-sex couples then will go into federal court and demand that their marriages be recognized under the “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says that states have to recognize the laws of the other states. This will lead to a full court challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Congress, which said that states could refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states if they chose to do so. THIS WILL BE A HOT ISSUE in the next few months.
Second, California, the nation’s most populous state, will have a measure on the ballot this November which would amend the state’s constitution to specifically overrule their Supreme Court and define marriage constitutionally as only between a man and a woman.
Polls show a significant majority of Californians favor such an amendment and that Californians are incensed that their Supreme Court refused to delay the actual performance of same-sex marriages in their state until the state’s citizens could vote on the amendment in November.
Finally, Florida, the nation’s fourth most populous state, also will have a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November which would ban same-sex marriage in that state. We know from past experience in states like Ohio and Michigan in 2004 that when such amendments are on the ballot, they generate a larger turnout of socially conservative voters, Catholic and Protestant.
For these reasons, same-sex marriage will play a greater role than previously expected in this year’s elections, including the presidential race (and not just in California and Florida), although it would still be significant if it were limited to these pivotal states.