A federal judge in the state of California has ordered the state to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning August 18.
In 2008, voters in the state of California narrowly approved a measure banning same-sex marriage. Earlier that year, the state’s Supreme Court declared the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. California issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples between the court’s decision and the election.
Supporters of same-sex marriage fought the ban in federal court, and Judge Vaughn Walker overturned it last week. He said the ban was discriminatory and violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution.
But the battle is far from over. Opponents of the ban on same-sex marriage have already filed an appeal to the Federal Appeals court. That court could halt the expected resumption of same-sex marriages. Whatever their decision, the issue is almost certainly headed to the highest court in the nation, the US Supreme Court.
Gay marriage has been a wedge-issue in the US for nearly two decades. Six states currently allow gay marriage. Recent polls have found Americans are basically divided on whether or not gays and lesbians have the right to get legally married. But more than 40 states have approved legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Will same-sex marriage become a national issue in the 2010 Midterm election? Voters have indicated the dominant concern in this election is the economy. Social issues have largely been absent.
Republicans don’t necessarily need to appeal to conservatives who oppose gay marriage because their base is already energized. The economy, the Tea Party, and the Obama presidency are enough to bring conservative voters to the polls in November without adding the culture wars into the campaign.
Democrats on the other hand, have often tried to avoid the issue or as in the case of President Barack Obama, said they support equal rights for same-sex couples but not gay marriage. He has worked to make benefits for same-sex partners of federal workers equal to those of married couples.
In January, Obama answered a question from a university student during a town hall meeting about his stance on equality for same-sex couples, “my belief is, is that a basic principle in our Constitution is that if you’re obeying the law, if you’re following the rules, that you should be treated the same, regardless of who you are.” But during the 2008 campaign, he said he didn’t support gay-marriage.
The legal battle in California and the federal courts will continue beyond this year’s election. The outcome will shape how and whether Democrats and Republicans chose to campaign on the issue in the future.