I usually get my daily hit of television news at 3 PM from BBC World Service Television, made available through one of the digital channels provided by KQED. The anchor desk for this broadcast is in Washington, which is usually consistent with where the most recent "action" has been. In the context of such an editorial organization, I am used to seeing not just California but also San Francisco specifically on their broadcasts; and I take a certain comfort when something happens "down the street" that received worldwide distribution from the BBC. So I shall be very curious to see if what happened about an hour ago a couple of blocks down the street that my unit overlooks will be included among today's story.
The event was the decision of the California Supreme Court on the legality of a state ban on same-sex marriage; and the decision (by a 4-3 vote) was to overturn the ban. For those interested in details, Demian Bulwa, Staff Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, provided this summary of how the seven justices voted:
-- Chief Justice Ronald George, 68, a Republican appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1991. Considered a moderate, he wrote today's 4-3 opinion striking down the state ban on same-sex marriage, which he said violates the "fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship."
-- Justice Joyce Kennard, 67, a Republican appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1989. She is considered a moderate and joined the majority opinion legalizing same-sex marriage.
-- Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, 72, a Republican appointed by Wilson in 1994. She is considered a moderate and was part of the majority in today's ruling.
-- Justice Carlos Moreno, 59, the court's only Democratic appointee, having been named to the bench by Gov. Gray Davis in 2001. He is considered a moderate and voted with the majority in today's ruling.
-- Justice Marvin Baxter, 68, a Republican appointed by Deukmejian in 1990. He is considered a conservative and wrote a dissenting opinion in today's ruling that accused the court of substituting "its own social policy views for those expressed by the people."
-- Justice Ming Chin, 65, a Republican appointed by Wilson in 1996. He is considered a conservative and joined Baxter's dissenting opinion.
-- Justice Carol Corrigan, 59, a Republican appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. She is considered a moderate and wrote a separate dissent to today's ruling saying that while she did not think the court should invalidate the state ban on same-sex marriage, she believes that "Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages."
In addition the Associated Press reported Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as saying, "I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling."
My wife and I bought our San Francisco condominium in September of 2003. We were living in Palo Alto, but we had gotten tired of driving back and forth to all the events we wanted to attend in San Francisco. We decided to use Labor Day Weekend to go to some open houses in search of a pied-à-terre place. Instead, we found one with so much space that we figured it would serve our retirement needs; and this is now our primary residence.
I mention this as context because our first extended stay in San Francisco was during the "ski week" vacation at the school where my wife was teaching. This also happened to be the weekend of St. Valentine's Day. Those who know this history behind today's ruling know that on that weekend Gavin Newsom, who had just been elected Mayor of San Francisco, opened City Hall to perform same-sex marriages; and from our unit we could catch a glimpse of the line that had formed there. My wife asked naively if we should be bringing them coffee, until we went down and saw just how long the line was. We had also decided to go to the Castro movie theater to see The Battle of Algiers; and, as we had sort of anticipated, the whole of the Castro was one big wedding party. I cannot remember the last time I had experienced so much positive energy in a city; and I suspect that, even then, I was thinking ahead to leaving Palo Alto and making San Francisco my base of operations.
This is thus a news story that has been with me almost as long as I have had a residence in San Francisco. Over the intervening four years I have seen a lot of protests and a lot of celebrations. I have had many opportunities to write about something that happens very close to my doorstep; but that usually involves Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, or other nearby performing spaces. Today the proximity was to a political issue that has been addressed (often more for worse than for better) at just about every level of government, from Federal all the way down to Municipal. My guess is that the celebratory mood I witnessed a little over four years ago will soon surface, and it will probably do so in sight of the window of the room from which I am writing this post!