Following the news of the recent California Supreme Court ruling, the American Constitution Society's Chicago Lawyer Chapter presented a discussion on the importance of the groundbreaking decision.
The May 23 discussion, 'The California Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision: What Does It Mean and What's Next?,' hosted at the law officers of Miller Shakman & Beem, featured guest speaker John Knight, senior staff attorney and director of the AIDS and Civil Liberties/Gay and Lesbian Rights Projects at the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ) of Illinois. Although Massachusetts already offers same-sex marriage, Knight said there are several reasons the California ruling is a 'landmark' decision for proponents.
For one, gay marriage proponents had been losing their argument in the court system until now. This marks a change in the tide.
'The court finally got what we've been saying for years,' Knight said, calling the California Supreme Court's analysis 'earth-shattering.'
The decision is also groundbreaking because of the influence of the California Supreme Court. California's highest court has been in the forefront of many new decisions recognizing rights that haven't been recognized before, Knight said, adding that the California Supreme Court is the 'most influential high state court' in the nation. This, in turn, could have a tremendous impact throughout the nation.
Knight said that the size of California's economy also makes the decision important. Read more story below....
During the discussion, Knight emphasized the importance of the decision in terms of its demand that gay and lesbian couples receive the same respect, dignity and fundamental rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Knight said that the decision strengthens gay marriage advocates' argument that marriage equality is about those fundamental rights, like protecting one's family, and the desire to obtain the protections and dignity afforded everybody else.
'I never really thought we would be at this particular place,' a clearly moved Knight said.
On the national front, those present noted two other pending marriage cases in Connecticut and Iowa, which could further change the landscape.
'We're hopeful in both of those courts,' Knight said.
The ACLU believes that in addition to various court cases, there will be more legislative efforts to obtain legal recognition of same-sex relationships, Knight said. These efforts, such as the push for civil unions currently going on in the Illinois House, represent more progress towards obtaining marriage equality throughout the United States.
'We'll keep fighting until, one day, we will have marriage benefits everywhere,' Knight said.