Sadly, Mildred Loving passed away on May 5 and didn’t live to see the
California State Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage. I
did not know Mrs. Loving, but I believe she would have applauded the

In 1958, Mildred, a black woman, married Richard, a white man in
Washington, DC. They then moved back home to Virginia and were
promptly arrested for “cohabitating as man and wife, against the
peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” They avoided a jail sentence
by returning to Washington but challenged the Virginia law,
eventually leading to the 1967 Supreme Court decision (Loving v.
Virginia) which ruled the Racial Integrity Act of 1924
unconstitutional and opened the door for interracial marriage
throughout the United States. There was immediate, loud and
predictable public outcry: a sin, abhorrent, will rip apart the
fabric of society, certain to destroy the institution of marriage,
dangerous to the children, etc. Excluding a few knuckle-dragging
racists, interracial marriage is now pretty much a “duh,” as is
“interreligion” marriage.

On May 15, the California Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-
sex marriage, following Massachusetts and becoming the second state
to allow same-sex marriage. The 4-3 ruling means that the nation’s
largest and most important state will soon begin allowing gays to
marry. It should be noted (in light of California’s well-deserved
reputation for being extremely liberal) that the Supreme Court is
considered moderate and that Republican governors appointed six of
its seven members.

As it was in 1967, the outcry was immediate, loud and predictable.
This ruling flies in the face of Proposition 22, a ban on same-sex
marriages that Californians overwhelmingly approved in 2000. And we
can certainly expect a spirited battle this fall as we debate a
proposed state constitutional amendment that would overturn this
ruling and forever ban same-sex marriage. It is significant to note
that those who stand against same-sex marriage (predominantly
conservative and/or religious) will no longer have the support of
Governor Schwarzenegger who does not plan on backing the proposed
constitutional amendment and said, “I respect the court’s decision
and as Governor, I will uphold it’s ruling.”

It is reasonable to think that 40 years from now, our children will
look at this issue and this ruling the same way most of us react to
Loving v. Virginia. The idea of not allowing a black woman to marry
a white man or a Jew to marry a Catholic is ridiculous to most
Americans. If individuals prefer to marry within their race or
religion, that is certainly their right, but they cannot impose their
beliefs on the rest of us. One day, same-sex marriages will be
included in that group.

My question: why should the state be involved in marriage, at any level?

Gays in California have the same legal rights through civil unions
that any married heterosexual couple has, so from the state’s point
of view, marriage is largely symbolic. However, for those forbidden
from being married, the symbol says, “we are not welcome and have
been judged by our state to be less than others.” Most of those who
support the ban find their reasons in the Bible and that symbol says
that the ideal is for a man and a woman to marry and raise children.
Their beliefs should also be respected. The ultimate solution is
surprisingly simple.

California should get out of the marriage business. Civil unions are
a legal issue which is where the state’s involvement should begin and
end. California has been a leader in providing gays a full
compliment of legal rights, the same rights that should be given to
all, regardless of religion, race or sexual orientation. Social
engineering by the state is a bad idea and California should lead the
way in recognizing the difference between religious beliefs
(marriage) and legal rights (civil unions).

Marriages should be performed and recognized by churches, synagogues,
and mosques. If the Catholic Church or any other religion/
denomination does not want to marry gays, so be it. It was not that
long ago (historically speaking) that my wife’s rabbi refused to
marry us because I was raised Catholic. Our solution was simple: we
went somewhere else to get married.

If a religious institution does not want to acknowledge a
relationship, then that is a private matter between that institution,
the individuals and their God. However, when a state refuses to
acknowledge a relationship, it is a public matter – and is
indefensible. Next month, when state-endorsed same-sex marriages
begin in California, I hope a glass is raised in memory of Mr. and
Mrs. Loving who deserve to be remembered for the noble and courageous
battle they fought and the doors they opened.