In February 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told the city-county clerk to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I was using LiveJournal at the time, and someone on my friends list there pointed out a place where you could order up flowers to be sent to a couple waiting in line to be married. Because I’m a big sappy sap who likes sappy gestures of sappiness, I sent flowers.

In April, I got a thank you: the florists who actually handled the flowers that I ordered sent me a postcard with a thank you on it, signed by the shop staff.

postcard from Flowers By The Bay, San Francisco

I’ve had that postcard on my fridge, through all my apartments to the present, since then. It’s sort of been a little reminder that sometimes, happy things happen.

So, this past Wednesday, six years and a few months after the 2004 shindig and its subsequent reversal and annulment of all marriages thus performed, and a few years past when the state of California started allowing gay marriage after a judicial decision that was later hamstrung by an amendment to the state Constitution, the US District Court for Northern California issued a ruling on Perry v. Schwarzenegger. That case was a challenge to the constitutional amendment, popularly known as “Prop 8,” which restricted marriage to only between a man and a woman, which passed in the 2008 election.

Ordinarily I could care less about California state politics, on account of I don’t live there and never intend to do so, and also because California is probably going to fall into the ocean any day now under the weight of all its wacky hijinks, but of course gay marriage is one of my personal political issues that I care deeply about, and this ruling has ramifications for the entire nation. As for why I find marriage equality to be necessary, not just “civil unions,” see Project 1138: 1,138 benefits and protections afforded to “married” citizens by the government of the United States, as reported by the General Accounting Office (GAO). So I paid attention, and naturally I was dead chuffed that it was decided in favor of my side of the argument, which is that insofar as the government recognizes marriages, it is required under the law to be equally available to people whether they wish to marry a person of the opposite or the same gender.

(I’ll acknowledge the libertarian contracts-for-everything-wheeee! viewpoint here by noting that the government has the option of simply de-coupling all its marriage-conferred privileges and responsibilities from the category of marriage; i.e., stop recognizing “marriages” and treat people as individuals and treat contract-bound entities as entities regardless of the name slapped on the contract. I don’t really have a horse in that race, but I’ll note that I prefer recognition of marriage because it’s a convenient shorthand that everyone recognizes, no one is seriously going to start introducing themselves with “Hi, I’m Sally, and this is my governmentally-recognized legal partner, Joe,” and a $25 marriage license doesn’t put an undue financial burden on individuals to obtain the contract rights that hiring a private lawyer to draw up documents does. But anyways.)

I’m not a lawyer, or a law student, or a constitutional expert, or even an unpaid intern for any of the preceding. I’m just an armchair hobbyist who reads lots of things for fun. But here’s my reasoning as to why I’m pleased with Perry v. Schwarzenegger in three short bullet points:

  1. Amendment XIV to the Constitution of the United States reads, in part, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
  2. The Prop 8 amendment to California’s constitution makes a distinction between two classes of citizen, on the basis of an immutable and irrelevant personal characteristic, and denies privileges based on this distinction.
  3. This amendment loses the slapfight between state and federal constitutions, and it can therefore fuck right off.

I do find the examination sort of entertaining. Rather than applying strict scrutiny, henceforth referred to as “the hard one,” the judge found that prop 8 fails even a rational basis examination, “the easy one,” where you have to find that there’s a rational reason behind the law. It’s like, I don’t have to prove that you can’t run a marathon, because you can’t even tie your running shoes without falling over. Walker said, “As presently explained in detail, the Equal Protection Clause renders Proposition 8 unconstitutional under any standard of review. Accordingly, the court need not address the question whether laws classifying on the basis of sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of review.” I will use my vast and encompassing command of legalese to translate for you: “Dudes, I didn’t even have to try hard to find the fault with your argument, it was right there in big blinking letters. Great big pink blinking homo letters with glitter on, as a matter of fact. Try harder next time. Love, Judge Walker.”

I sent some strangers flowers to celebrate their wedding in 2004, and here’s hoping that soon, they finally get to really enjoy them, with love from Chicago.