The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on June 26 in favor of marriage equality have ushered in a new era for same-sex couples in California. Almost immediately after the high court’s decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay it had imposed on gay marriages in California while the lawsuit challenging the ban advanced through the courts. The surprisingly speedy action by the appeals court in America’s most populous state means that not only will all couples be treated equally, but also all ministers.
For ordained ministers who have wished to officiate a California wedding for same-sex couples, the appeals court’s decision could not have come sooner. The court forwent the usual waiting period when it lifted California’s gay marriage ban on June 28 by 3:30 p.m. State Attorney General Kamala Harris called the Los Angeles County Clerk at 4:07 p.m., ordering him to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses immediately. Loving couples took advantage of the quick response: Proposition 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo were married that evening in Los Angeles and received their marriage license the next day.
Wednesday’s rulings were a double-win for California marriage equality advocates, and have the potential to transform the state’s wedding industry forever. Not only did the Supreme Court reject Proposition 8, effectively re-instituting gay marriage in the state, but it also ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it discriminated against same-sex couples. Consequently, same-sex marriages in California will be federally recognized; couples will be treated equally with regard to Social Security survivor’s benefits, immigration law, and taxation if they live and were married in any of the thirteen states that recognize marriage equality.
Proposition 8 supporters, however, were dismayed at the court decision. By Sunday, they had filed an emergency request with Justice Kennedy to temporarily bar California from granting same-sex marriages, arguing that they should have been allowed 25 days to appeal the high court’s decision before the consequences of the recent ruling could be observed. Justice Kennedy (who disagreed in the courts 5-4 decision and wrote the dissenting opinion) denied the supporters’ request without comment.
Wednesday’s ruling and the weekend’s subsequent events will have longstanding implications for Universal Life Church Monastery ministers, too. For decades, ULC ministers were treated as inferior to other ministers because the same-sex weddings they performed were unrecognized. The recent changes mean that those who become ordained ministers online and perform same-sex weddings in California will be treated equally with other ministers. Still, ministers in most U.S. states do not yet enjoy this equality, and religious bias against those who perform gay marriages remains a problem.
The repeal of Proposition 8 will unquestionably change the lives of ordained ministers and those they marry. It will also mean a bright future for online ordination. The Universal Life Church Monastery has long defended the right of every individual to get ordained online, perform a wedding ceremony for any loving couple, and have these weddings recognized. We will continue to fight peacefully yet diligently for the rights of our ministers and their loved ones so long as these rights remain unrecognized.
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