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Liberal California shuts door on same sex marriages
Rajuta Paradkar in San Francisco
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November 06, 2008 11:57 IST
Last Updated: November 06, 2008 14:50 IST

A proposed ban on same-sex marriage in California  -- widely seen as the most momentous of the 153 ballot measures at stake across the United States on November 4 -- has been passed, with 52 per cent of the voters saying 'yes' and 48 per cent saying 'no'.

For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community which fought long and hard for the right to get married, the vote has come as a heartbreaking defeat.

Rashmi Choksey, president of Satrang, the South Asian queer organisation based in Southern California, says, "It's been a bitter-sweet election. On one hand, a liberal Democrat was elected with overwhelming support and on the other, California, which is known for its liberal views and ideals, has let its queer people down. Satrang members who got married and those who hope to get married in the future are quite sad at this turn of events."

Sapana Doshi, 34, who got married just two weeks ago to her partner Tracy Osborne, 38, is on her way to her honeymoon in the Caribbean. .

Speaking to, she said, "It doesn't mean that our effort against Prop 8 (the initiative to ban same sex marriages) was a complete failure. We spread so much awareness. It has forever changed the way people think about same sex couples. For example, our family has been transformed. And so many families in California agree that we are denied our fundamental right. The verdict is a sad setback but not a defeat."

Sapana, who got married in an Indian ceremony attended by 150 people at the Sonoma County park in California, said, "We are each other's soul-mates. For a long time we wanted to get married but were denied our fundamental right. We were in fact planning to go to Canada [Images] to get married. But when the state supreme court approved same sex marriages, it gave us hope. It made a big difference in our lives. So we moved fast to ensure we can get married soon."

However, Like Sapana, some 18,000 same sex couples who tied the knot during a four-month window of opportunity opened by the court ruling now face uncertainty about their legal status as a married couple.

Rashmi Choksey explains, "The fact that Prop 8 was passed with such a small margin shows that we've made some strides into illuminating the homophobia and discrimination we face. However, there's much more work to be done, especially addressing the scare tactics and misinformation that the religious right has used to its advantage. Basically, those who got married will be in some sort of limbo, no one knows how it will play out. I have a feeling there will be several lawsuits filed for one thing or another, the biggest already being filed by the American Civil Liberties Union."

The ACLU and other opponents of the ban have filed a challenge with the state supreme court arguing that California's ballot cannot be used to undermine one group's access to rights enjoyed by other citizens.

The amendment, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, overrides the original court ruling by defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Thirty states have now adopted such measures, but the California vote marks the first time a state took away the right after it had been legalised.

In a landmark judgment on May 16, the California supreme court had struck down the state's ban on same sex marriage.

Rakesh Modi, chariman of Trikone, a support group for LGBT people of South Asian descent, said he has not lost hope. "I am very disappointed with the unfavourable verdict on Prop 8, but I am not disheartened. This just means that there is more work to be done, even in the seemingly liberal state of California, to educate people. I still have faith that Californians are broad-minded enough to accept same sex marriage. We lost Prop 8 because of the scary tactics of our opposition in spreading lies."

According to the 2000 census, total number of same sex couples in California is 92,138. According to analysis of data from the 2000 US census, there are over 13,000 Asian and Pacific Islanders in same couples in California, more than in any other state.

According to Satrang's comprehensive survey in 2005 in collaboration with the largest SA community based partner organisation, the South Asian Network, over 3,869 of them are South Asians. The California Center for Population Research says there were four per cent Asian Indian same sex couples and 0.2 per cent Pakistani same sex couples in California.

The number of South Asians has grown in the eight years since the census. Moreover, the data doesn't include those who were counted under 'unmarried partner household' category or single gays, lesbians, bi and trans South Asians.

Gay marriage bans were also passed on Tuesday in Arizona and Florida [Images], with 57 percent and 62 percent support, respectively, while Arkansas voters approved a measure aimed at gays that bars unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only American states to allow same sex marriage.

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