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Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage in San Francisco Term Paper

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Updated: Sep 23rd, 2019

Same-sex marriage simply refers to a marital relationship between people of the same gender or sex identity. As it would be observed, this form of marriage has recently raised a lot of controversy from across the world.

Those who support marriage between couples of the same sex view have always seen it as a form of marriage which deserves legal recognition just like the normal system of marriage which is considered by the majority as the rightful form of marriage.

The opposing side, on the other hand, has completely disregarded the idea of same-sex marriage basing their arguments on the viewpoints of religion and family values among other key social aspects. As a matter of fact, the huge controversy surrounding this matter of same-sex marriage has not been a simple case over the years, since it involves many cultural, legislative, and religious issues.

Regardless of the main differences between those in support of, and those against the idea, the public opinion in favor of same-sex relationships is said to have increased abundantly in the US over the last few years.

Currently, about 13 out of the 50 U.S. states have already legalized same-sex marriage, and there is a big likelihood that others will follow in the near future, considering the on-going debates and battles to make gay marriage legal nationwide.

This paper observes the legalization of same-sex marriage in San Francisco, putting an emphasized focus on the role that the County leaders have played in helping the system gain legal protection and greater social acceptance across the country.

The perception that marriage should be restricted to couples of different gender is one of the major legal standpoints that have been cited by the opposers of same-sex marriage in California. On the other hand, supporters of same-sex marriage have reacted by pointing out that, marriage is a civil right which should not be placed on restrictions that appear to favor people who do possess particular sexual preferences.

These varied viewpoints have come out clearly in the County of San Francisco and the entire State of California where the American Supreme Court has recently given a ruling allowing couples of the same sex to marry. By granting victory to the gay-rights movement, the landmark ruling issued at Washington in June 26 has appeared to favor the supporters of this form of marriage.

This, however, has come as a real blow to backers of proposition 8, who have been against the idea of same-sex relationships in America. Proposition 8 was a Constitutional amendment that was added to the Marriage Act towards the end of 2008, with the aim of stopping same-sex sexual relationships or marriage in the State of California.

The Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a reality in the State has sustained the momentum which had risen behind same-sex relationships and marriages over the last ten years. While reading the groundbreaking ruling to the citizens, Justice Anthony Kennedy observed that the federal Defense of Marriage Act had over the years placed couples of the same-sex in an unstable position in the society (Egelko, 2013, p 17).

The Justice would further assert that, this differentiation had demeaned the couples whose sexual and moral decisions were equally protected by the constitution just like those of the other citizens who are in other forms of marriage.

The debate over same-sex marriage in California had been a long battle for the State leaders who have shown great resilience in the struggle for the democracy of marriage equality. This battle is said to have begun in the year 1996, following President Clinton’s assent to the Defense of Marriage Act placing a ban on the recognition of same-sex relationships as legal unions (Appleton, 2005).

In this regard, the President had observed the marriage between man and woman as the legal form of marriage which the American people should follow, since it was the universally-accepted form of marriage.

Barely three years after the signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court in Vermont ruled that, couples in other forms of marriages deserved to be granted equal rights and privileges as those in heterosexual marriages.

This perception raised similar reactions from other parts of the country, and come November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court expressed its concern that banning of same-sex marriage or relationships was unconstitutional. Similar reactions would be witnessed in several other States in the following years. This raised massive conflict between those who supported same-sex marriage and those who opposed it.

Regardless of the tension raised by the laws which had banned same-sex marriage in the U.S., some states had blatantly ignored them, and had proceeded with the process of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples within their boundaries.

Most of these cases were witnessed in 2004, where thousands of same-sex couples from different parts of the country were awarded marriage licenses. For instance, between February and March of the same year, about 4,000 couples of same sex were given licenses in San Francisco County alone, following the authority of the mayor.

The mayor was convinced that the state law on this particular matter was unconstitutional, and it was therefore on the basis of this observation that he went on to authorize the marriages. As a result of this move, officials and leaders from other neighboring counties and states started showing interest in following this example which had been set by the San Francisco leaders (Bohon, 2013, p. 9).

This actually, must have been one of the reasons that had drawn the attention of President George W. Bush onto the matter in 2004, forcing him to officially announce his support for a federal constitution amendment to illegalize same-sex relationships and marriages in the U.S. However, a lot of fight would arise from the two opposing sides, and none of them appeared to lose hope in safeguarding their stand in the case.

In May 17, 2004, Massachusetts County became the first U.S. state to legalize marriage of same-sex couples, and this would see other states in the country put a lot of pressure and effort in the struggle of democracy for gay and lesbian communities.

The first formal reaction against the Defense of Marriage Act in California would come in March 2005, after a Superior Court judge ruled that the state’s law limiting marriage to man and woman was unconstitutional. In September of the same year, a bill advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage was passed by the state’s legislature.

Even though the bill had faced serious detests from some leaders, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a glimpse of hope would finally be realized in mid 2008, when the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the ban on this form of marriage was unconstitutional, thus striking down all the relevant laws (Cieply, 2013, p. 13).

This decision was finally reached upon after a close scrutiny on the discrimination between other forms of marriage and heterosexual marriage in the state, where it was established that marriage was indeed a fundamental right which cannot be denied to anyone on the basis of their sexual orientations.

This hope appeared to be short-lived, after the same court went on to uphold the passage of proposition 8, in May, 2009. What followed afterwards is a long fleet of appeals and petitions filed by the two opposing sides as they fought each other in the court in an attempt to defend their respective positions on the matter.

The supporters of the same-sex marriage had shown great determination in ensuring that the right for same-sex couples to marry was restored in California. This resilience for social rights in the society was effective in helping the proposers of same-sex marriage in the state gain much support from their leaders, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who had earlier on tried to veto the bill on two occasions (Kurdek, 2004).

This coupled with President Obama’s official endorsement of same-sex marriages or relationships in May 2012, gave the supporters same-sex an upper hand in the case. The final outcome of this long battle would eventually come in June 26, 2013, when the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the backers of proposition 8 in a 5-4 defeat.

Apart from paving the way for marriage between couples of the same sex in California, the ruling had also stated that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to federal benefits, just like the spouses in heterosexual marriages.

As it would be observed, the announcement of the ruling by Justice Kennedy had generated mixed reactions across the country. It was indeed a very unusual split between the opponents and proposers of the same-sex marriage in the U.S.

According to Austin Nimocks, a lawyer representing the backers of Proposition 8 in the case, the debate over this sensitive matter has just kicked off, and there is nothing that would stop them from advocating for laws which recognized the union between man and woman as the rightful form of marriage on earth.

There were also claims that same-sex relationships or marriages were immoral, and against God’s will and goal of human sexuality here on earth, which is to bear children (Pinello, 2006).

However, the supporters, who had emerged the victors of the day, had unanimously praised the court’s ruling terming it as a well-deserved freedom which had finally come to them after many years of struggle for their constitutional rights and privileges.

The supporters could not hide their happiness as David Boeis, a lawyer representing the challengers of the appeal, confirmed the news outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

President Barack Obama, who had over the years expressed great support for legal recognition of couples of the same-sex, was among the senior leaders who applauded the court for delivering a fair ruling in favor of this marginalized group that had for many years longed for equality under the law.

Based on current state of affairs, the U.S. states have made a commendable effort in legalizing same-sex marriage. As a matter of fact, the rate of legalization and acceptance is rapidly increasing, and this is a clear indication that this form of marriage will soon be legally accepted nationally.

Today, the state of California is said to be one of the largest gay communities in America, with San Francisco County topping the rankings as the largest same-sex marriage community in the state (Goldberg-Hiller, 2004). The passing of Proposition 8 in the state in the year 2008 had come as a major blow to same-sex spouses who had always fought for marriage equality in the society.

However, within a period of about four years, polling in the state almost flipped, with majority of the people expressing their support on same-sex relationships. The recent rulings on Proposition 8 have succeeded in making a final decision on the fate of marriage equality for Californians. More importantly, this has also paved way for legalization of same sex marriages and relationships across the country.

Ever since the debates on marriage equality begun, through the time when the case was unfolding in the courts, San Francisco has issued the largest number of marriage licenses to couples of the same-sex than any other state in the country. This is likely to increase considerably in the near future, following these recent rulings that have restored marriage rights to spouses of the same sex in California.

Even though the Supreme Court ruling may not succeed in eradicating the many social, cultural, and religious concerns associated with gay or same-sex marriages, it will to some extent help punctuate the many social challenges which the people in this form of marriage have continued to face in the contemporary world. Some of the common social challenges facing same-sex spouses include discrimination and prejudice.

We have all heard of cases where same-sex couples have been side-lined by the other citizens because of their sexual orientation, thus ending up being victims of legal discrimination, medical discrimination, and religious discrimination among other forms of discrimination (Lewis & Gossett, 2008).

However, with the new rulings on the matter, the gay and lesbian communities can now look forward to a friendly environment that assures them of freedom in a cultural and legal way.

Legalization of same sex marriage in California and Francisco among other states and Counties is likely to bring many benefits to the nation in terms of economy. For instance, by allowing same-sex marriage in California, the court ruling has paved way for a new economic activity for the state.

Business and market analysts have estimated that about 37,000 same-sex spouses from the state of California alone are expected to get married in the next three years, and this is likely to boost the economy of the state by a margin of $492 million in revenues generated from engagement and wedding activities.

The newspaper article “Plaintiffs in gay marriage” (2013, June 13) argues that “the decision of the Supreme Court to effectively legalize this form of marriage in the state is also likely to attract gay visitors from other regions, who would like to travel to a state where their human rights and privileges are recognized and accepted, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Apart from the economical benefits discussed above, San Francisco leaders must have thought of the plight which same-sex couples and supporters are likely to continue facing in the struggle for marriage equality, thus doing everything in their capability to support them.

The court battle, as discussed in this paper, is a perfect example of how San Francisco leaders have helped to advocate for legal protection and social acceptance of same-sex marriage in the country. This topic fits well into Greenberg’s framework in that, it shows how various structures and linkages in the society can be applied to bring the rightful transformation for marginalized communities.

This can be observed in the way San Francisco leaders have united with the citizens to advocate for marriage equality, thus helping same-sex marriage gain legal protection and acceptance across the states.

As it would be observed, the battle on the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state of California and its Counties, including San Francisco, was fraught with numerous constitutional and electoral issues.

For instance, the marriage between same-sex couples was previously regarded constitutional by the huge majority who supported it, but an amendment of the Marriage Act in the year 2008 would completely eliminate this right from the Act, thus blocking same-sex relationships in the state.

Another major constitutional issue arising from the matter can be observed in the words of Justice Scalia, who was on the dissenting side of the Supreme Court’s ruling, when he observed that “the constitution neither allowed nor forbade the American society to assent to same-sex marriages and sexual relationships, among other social aspects that are affiliated to love and marriage” (BBC, 2013).

Constitutional issues were also observed on the basis of what may happen to spouses of same-sex marriage from a particular state, incase they happened to travel to a different state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. Apart from these constitutional issues, various electoral issues were also observed in the battle for marriage equality in California and San Francisco.

For example, aspirants of various leadership positions would see the issue of marriage equality as a campaign idea that can be used to convince voters to elect them in their respective positions. Moreover, in one or two occasions, the case of same-sex marriage had also qualified for election ballot, thus becoming an electoral issue.

As it has been observed in this paper, California and San Francisco leaders have played a crucial role in helping same-sex marriage gain legal recognition and acceptance in the United States of America.

Both the government and the civil leaders in the state, ranging from those in the lowest positions to the ones in the highest positions, have expressed great support to the interests of the huge majority in the County as far as the issue of same-sex is concerned.

As a matter of fact, theirs has been an old struggle of democracy which took many years to accomplish, but which has eventually delivered the most desirable outcomes for the gay communities. This is clearly justified by the highly-welcomed ruling by the Supreme Court recently.

A fair judgment was given, regardless of the many obstacles and challenges that have seen same-sex marriage supporters in the County undergo many years of struggle on legal protection and recognition.

As a matter of fact, the determination shown by the San Francisco leaders in the fight for democracy for same-sex couples has continued to inspire leaders from other regions to take a similar way, and in that regard, there is no doubt that same-sex marriage will be legally accepted across the nation in the near future.


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Cieply, M. (2013). Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships). The New York Times. Web.

Egelko, B. (2013). . San Francisco Chronicle. Web.

Goldberg-Hiller, J. (2004). The limits to union: Same-sex marriage and the politics of civil rights. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Kurdek, L. (2004). Are gay and lesbian cohabiting couples really different from heterosexual married couples? Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(4), 880- 900.

Lewis, G., & Gossett, C. (2008). Changing Public Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage: The Case of California. Politics & Policy, 36(1), 4-30.

Pinello, D. (2006). America’s struggle for same-sex marriage. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Plaintiffs in gay marriage case marry in San Francisco, Los Angeles. (2013). Associated Press. Web.

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