Earlier this year, when the Norwegian centre-left government sent to parliament a bill to legalize gay marriage, I was immediately taken by a sense of pride. Not so much on the part of myself or my fellow gayers, but on part of my country, which I of course love dearly no matter what. While one may think of Norwegian as a liberal ocean per se, as we legalized civil unions more than 15 years ago, this final step towards equal marriage rights still had taken some effort. Of course. Norway differs from the United States in that these battles are won in parliament – the bill is expected to pass by a fairly wide margin, made up of both socialists, social democrats, greens, liberals and even some conservatives – whereas in America many of the touchstone changes in this area have come from the judicial branch, because many states have tried to narrow the legal definition of marriage to a religiously and culturally founded opposite sex institution.
However, this is by no means meant to diminish the importance of Wednesday’s ruling in the California Supreme Courts, that the state can no longer deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. It’s a bold ruling, but the majority opinion provided a very strong case. California becomes only the second state – Massachusetts is the other – to take this step, though the formal legislative process is not yet underway. To the credit of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger he has said he will respect the ruling, now that the court has spoken (he has vetoed gay marriage bills previously, saying he considers this an issue not for politics, but for either voters or the courts to weigh in on.) It’s perhaps no shocker that the home of world gay capital San Francisco now has finally earned to its reputation as a liberal bastion, but that makes it no less encouraging.
For a moment we are all Californians.
Correction, May 16: This post originally wrongly stated that Governor Schwarzenegger would not allow an anti-gay marriage amendment ballot initiative on this issue, as is in the wings for November. It’s not in his power to decide which initiatives goes on the ballot. He has, however, said he wouldn’t endorse such a an anti-gay marriage amendment.