In the 1965 song by The Mamas & the Papas, there is a line that goes: "Stopped into a church I passed along the way ..."
Well, if things in the Golden State don't soon change, if one were to stop by certain California churches on June 17, one very well might get to witness a homosexual wedding.
With the monumental decision by the California Supreme Court, gays not only in California but all over the country (the California decision does not limit itself to Californians only) are "dreamin'" of wedding bells.
So colossal and urgent is the matter that on May 30, 10 states' attorneys general asked the California Supreme Court to delay finalizing its ruling. You see, these states need time to decide if they are going to recognize the gay marriages performed in California. They want California to wait until after the November elections to see if their voters decide to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown urged his Supreme Court not to grant the delay.
On May 29, New York Gov. David Paterson directed all of his state's agencies to be prepared to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. This, even though in 2006 New York's highest court ruled that New York law does not permit same-sex marriage, while also ruling that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
If the California court does not stay its decision, almost certainly gay couples from all over the country will flood the state seeking to be married. Most will return to states that have either a), a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (26 states); or b), a statute restricting marriage to two persons of the opposite sex (a total of 43 states). The results could be chaotic.
You see, even if California voters in November vote to amend the state's constitution, which polls now indicate is likely to happen (a recent Los Angeles Times poll showed that Californians favored amending their constitution by a 54 percent to 35 percent margin), this would not necessarily invalidate the gay marriages that might be formed in-between the time the California Supreme Court ruled and the time at which the amendment takes effect. California officials might have no choice other than to regard those same-sex couples as legally married.
Then there is the matter of the consequences of the Full Faith and Credit provision in the U.S. Constitution. This provision provides that, "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State." In other words, the beneficiaries of one state's laws do not have to forfeit those benefits in another state.
In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Under the provisions of DOMA, marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples in one state do not have to be recognized by another state, thus avoiding the consequences of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.
However, with the California ruling, a much awaited challenge in the federal courts to DOMA could be forthcoming. Many experts think it likely that DOMA would be overturned. The nation would then be facing either legal recognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman only, thus legally settling the matter altogether.
Also, there is the matter of the political ramifications of the California ruling. Because same-sex marriage is unpopular with the vast majority of the national electorate, if this matter becomes a significant election issue it would almost certainly benefit Republicans. John McCain voted for DOMA and still supports it. Barack Obama opposes it.
After the California ruling, McCain said that he recognized "the right of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution ... (and) doesn't believe judges should be making these decisions." In contrast, Obama said that he "respects the decision of the California Supreme Court."
Obama also opposes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect traditional marriage. McCain has opposed this as well (in light of DOMA he sees it as unnecessary, and he favors states making their own decisions on the matter), but he has indicated that he would support an amendment if the states' rights to decide the matter were taken away.
I have written several times over the last few years about the chaos that could result from redefining traditional marriage (visit my Web site for previous articles). Everything from chaos in families, to chaos in government and government institutions, to chaos in private and religious institutions could result.
It seems more and more as if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting traditional marriage is the only way finally to put this matter to rest. We need to start letting our elected officials know this.
Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident and frequent columnist. Visit his Web site here.