Unbanning a banned word

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The July/August issue of the APA's journal, Monitor, contains a report about that organization's amicus brief to the California Supreme Court concerning that state's ban on same-sex marriage. Citing this brief, the Court has now ruled 4 to 3 that restricting marriage to opposite sex couples violates California's constitution. The word, "marriage," formerly banned from use by a selected group of couples, is now unbanned.

California's legislature had already passed other state laws favoring the same-sex partners', rights, benefits, and obligations. It considered these the same as those of opposite-sex partners (except for Social Security and Medicare benefits). The issue in this recent case was about the right to be allowed to use one word–"married." Same-sex couples could not be married in name because that word was restricted to opposite sex couples. Among other things, the Supreme Court ruling cited the APA's amicus brief about the stigma of denying them the right to use the word, which  indicated that their relationship was less valuable. Denying them the right to use the word meant that they can't exercise their constitutional rights under equal protection of the law. In short, it was discriminatory, in much the same way that we consider discrimination by race, religion, age, and other classifications. 

So the Court's decision means that same-sex couples are now free to use the word, "marriage," to describe their relationship.  California voters also will get a chance to amend the constitution about three months from now.  Meanwhile, the Court's ruling will  continue, unless the voters decide to preserve the old ruling that same-sex couples are banned from using the word, "marriage." In recent years, California has twice passed legislation granting same-sex couples the right to call themselves "married," only to have it vetoed by the governor, who based his decision on his belief that it violated the state's constitution. But now the Supreme Court has decided this for him.

If there was ever any doubt about the importance and power of words, this case should put it to rest. 

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