When President Bush announced his support earlier this year for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, one of America’s best-known homosexual-rights advocates took it personally.
Two days later, entertainer Rosie O’Donnell, calling the president’s intentions “shocking” and “immoral,” told the world from the steps of San Francisco City Hall that she had “married” her long-time female partner, Kelli Carpenter, with whom she is raising four children.
“We were both inspired to come here after the sitting president said the vile and vicious and hateful comments he said on Tuesday which inspired my brand new wife and I to fly in this morning,” she told a cheering crowd of supporters Feb. 26.
What made Rosie O’Donnell’s “marriage” to a woman possible in a nation where the vast majority of citizens defend the traditional man-woman definition of marriage is a story still in its opening chapters.
‘Redefining marriage by court order’
Last November, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in the state constitution a previously unrecognized “right” to same-sex marriage, striking down the state’s ban and instructing lawmakers to come up with an appropriate law, by May 17, that would seal in law homosexuals’ right to marry.
The move prompted President Bush in his Jan. 20 State of the Union address to voice his support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, decrying “activist judges” who have begun “redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives.”
In attendance at the president’s speech was San Francisco’s newly elected, 36-year-old mayor Gavin Newsom, who decided that very night to respond in an extraordinary way.
Quietly, he brought his staff together to plan a careful strategy that eventually garnered the aid of stunned homosexual-rights groups.
”Oh, my God, you’re kidding me,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, upon hearing of Newsom’s plan, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 10, Newsom ordered City Clerk Nancy Alfaro to make necessary changes to ensure marriage licenses are issued without regard to gender or sexual orientation.
Although California’s family code strictly defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, Newsom argued homosexuals should be able to marry based on the state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
A pro-family lobbying group, California Campaign for Families, immediately sprang to action, signaling its intent to file for an injunction in San Francisco Superior Court that Friday to prevent the city from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
But Newsom upstaged them. Just before noon Thursday, City Assessor Mabel Teng presided over a closed-door civil ceremony at City Hall for longtime lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, the first instance of officially sanctioned same-sex marriage in American history.
By Friday, scores of weddings already had been performed and opponents, who decried the move as municipal anarchy, were told by a judge to come back Tuesday. The city was not given the required 24 hours to prepare for the hearing, and the holiday weekend meant the court would be closed Monday.
But Newsom kept City Hall open over the weekend as same-sex couples poured in from all over the state and beyond.
The mayor insisted he was merely fulfilling his duty: “A little more than a month ago, I took the oath of office here at City Hall and swore to uphold California’s constitution, which clearly outlaws all forms of discrimination,” he said. “Denying basic rights to members of our community will not be tolerated.”
The fire spreads eastward
As court battles raged around San Francisco’s unprecedented actions, a little more than a week later a New Mexico county granted licenses to more than a dozen homosexual couples.
Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap, a Republican, said a call earlier that week inquiring about same-sex ceremonies prompted her to seek a legal opinion. Although she found no laws prohibiting it, Attorney General Patricia Madrid issued an immediate opinion that stopped her in her tracks.
In Michigan, meanwhile, some local homosexual couples converged on the Kent County Clerk’s office to obtain a marriage license, though officials showed them a form that clearly stated the law: “No man shall marry another man” and “no woman shall marry another woman.”
In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley said he would have “no problem” with the Cook County clerk issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples and was open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus could be built.
But on Feb. 21, shortly after a court plea by traditional-family defenders was rejected, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally ordered the state’s attorney general, Bill Lockyer, to stop San Francisco’s defiance.
“Our civilized society and legal system is based upon a respect for and adherence to the rule of law,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “The City and County of San Francisco’s unfortunate choice to disregard state law and grant marriage certificates to gay couples directly undermines this fundamental guarantee.”
As attorney general, the governor said to Lockyer, “you have the authority to take legal action to require the city and county of San Francisco to comply with the laws of the State.”
‘No right to discriminate’
But Schwarzenegger’s words did not terminate the anarchy now spreading from city to city. Mirroring the defiance of San Francisco officials, the 26-year-old mayor of a New York college town performed two-dozen same-sex marriage ceremonies Feb. 27.
New Paltz Mayor Jason West contended he was obligated to issue licenses to homosexual couples because the state law on marriage says nothing about gender, and New York’s constitution requires equal protection.
“We as a society have no right to discriminate in marriage any more than we have the right to discriminate when someone votes or when someone wants to hold office,” West said.
The mayor was ordered to appear in court to answer for 19 violations of the state’s domestic-relations law. Although he had planned to hold more ceremonies, he now faces a possible fine of up to $500 along with up to a year in jail for breaking state law.
But close on his heels, the mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., announced she would accept marriage license applications from homosexual couples while a coalition of about 50 homosexual couples in New York City applied to the city clerk’s office for licenses.
On March 3, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said it’s up to the courts to decide whether the state law barring same-sex marriage is constitutional, stating he personally would like to see the law changed but “must respect the law as it now stands.”
On the same day, Oregon’s law on marriage was challenged as the Multnomah County Clerk’s office began issuing licenses to homosexual couples in Portland.
A lesbian couple, among as least 50 people who waited in line all night, were married live on the Northwest Cable News Network at a nearby hotel as the Oregon attorney general’s office claimed it was looking to the governor for direction.
As the cable channel’s cameras zoomed in on the couple, the anchor intoned to viewers that they were witnessing history.
Oregon’s law says marriage is “a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age,” but Multnomah officials issuing the licenses argued it does not say a marriage must be between a man and a woman.
In an editorial chastising the county’s commissioners, the Oregonian newspaper of Portland said: “Apparently, Oregonians can’t be trusted to decide their own fate on the question of gay marriage. Showing utter contempt for the democratic process, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners has decided to decide for us, preempting the debates and discussions going on around dinner tables here and elsewhere.”
The paper said county officials “apparently couldn’t bear to stand at the altar and watch the gay-wedding party pass them by.”
Meanwhile, back in California, Schwarzenegger restated his opposition to the San Francisco mayor’s actions, but now said on national television that it would be “fine with me” if state law were changed to permit same-sex marriages.
On March 6, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against New Paltz Mayor West in a suit brought by the Florida-based Liberty Counsel. West had told reporters he thought it was “funny” he had provoked a fight, concluding, “This is the best day of my mayoral career.”
Indeed, West insisted he had an “obligation” to break the law and had no intention of stopping, regardless of the criminal charges and New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s opinion that the same-sex marriages are illegal.
Liberty Counsel’s president and chief counsel, Mathew Staver, marked the judges order, however, as a return of the rule of law to New Paltz.
“All mayors throughout the United States should be on notice,” said Staver. “Attempts to disregard the plain law of the land by elected officials should be viewed for what it is – illegal activity that must be brought to justice.”
Liberty Counsel also is a plaintiff in a suit to stop San Francisco’s Newsom. The previous day, Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund filed a brief in the California Supreme Court to stop issuance of “illegal marriage licenses” and to provide evidence of the constitutionality of California’s marriage laws.
ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull said a lower-court record is necessary for all the issues to be fully examined.
“The California Constitution does not require that persons be treated similarly if they are, in fact, different,” he argued. “Uncontroversial social science research shows that male-male unions and female-female unions are substantively different. If those unions are different from each other, they cannot both be the same as male-female unions.”
Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, called the case “open and shut,” asserting San Francisco is violating at least 10 laws in the state family code, the penal code and the state constitution.
“The state Supreme Court should have no problem putting a restraining order upon the city of San Francisco to stop these unlawful licenses,” he said. “San Francisco has been breaking the law and turning marriage upside down for more than three weeks now. People are tired of this. The system of law is tired of it too.”
In a bizarre sideshow, up in Oregon, while ministers and conservative lawmakers filed a lawsuit to block same-sex marriages in Multnomah County, another county in the state decided to halt the wedding march for all citizens, without regard to gender.
Benton County Commission Chair Linda Modrell said the suspension was to “maintain consistency with our oath to uphold Oregon’s constitution’s anti-discrimination provisions.”
“We ask for the public’s patience with this temporary inconvenience,” she said. “It is in everyone’s best interests to stand by and recognize that all citizens receive equal treatment from their government.”
Liberty Counsel’s Staver is confident that, ultimately, courts will invalidate Newsom’s “publicity stunt” and the actions of officials who followed his lead across the nation.
“The marriage licenses will not be worth the paper they are written on,” he said.
But it’s not quite that simple.
For many homosexual-rights groups who have waged a more than three-decade fight, 2004 marks a crossing of the Rubicon, as literally thousands of same-sex couples had their relationships publicly acknowledged – legitimately or not – under the banner of holy matrimony.
Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, a champion of homosexual rights, noted a consequent shift in attitudes among Americans and their representatives.
“It’s stunning to see how quickly civil union has become the moderate position, and the pace of this change isn’t slowing down,” she said in an April 2 editorial. “Every poll shows that young Americans are more accepting of gay marriage than their elders. We’re in the middle of a shift toward acceptance of full rights for gay couples.”
In San Francisco, a coalition of theologically liberal churches welcomed same-sex marriage as a civil-rights victory.
“This is a good and holy thing. It’s traditional family values at their best,” Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor of the Bethany United Methodist Church, told the San Francisco Examiner. “God is doing a new thing in San Francisco, and we joyously enter into this journey for justice.”
Editor’s note: You have just read the opening article in the current issue of Whistleblower magazine. Titled “SEXUAL ANARCHY,” this special edition of WND’s monthly magazine is devoted entirely to the explosive issue of homosexual marriage, and shows – contrary to popular opinion – that same-sex marriage may very soon become the law of the land in America. The issue also shows, perhaps for the first time, how same-sex marriage can be stopped dead in its tracks, regardless of the actions of activist judges.
SPECIAL OFFER: Subscribe to Whistleblower now, and get two blockbuster FREE issues – “THE END OF MARRIAGE?” and “GAY RIGHTS’ SECRET AGENDA.” Together with “SEXUAL ANARCHY” they provide a comprehensive and insightful journalistic look at one of the most crucial but little understood issues of our generation.