The California Supreme Court's May ruling legalizing same-sex marriage did much more than that, says Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and lead lawyer for the successful gay side in the California marriage case.
In an Aug. 2 interview with Los Angeles journalist Karen Ocamb, Minter said: “The fundamental-right-to-marry part of the holding was extremely significant, but the court's holding that sexual orientation is a suspect classification was stunning – completely unprecedented. I think it will forever change the legal landscape for LGBT people in the country; it's going to have a huge impact on courts in other states and, ultimately, on the federal courts. We are now living in a different legal world because of what the court did.”
The court's determination means that any discrimination based on sexual orientation is constitutionally subject to the strictest level of scrutiny by California courts, which makes it dramatically harder for any level of government to defend itself in any arena where gays, lesbians and bisexuals are not treated the same as heterosexuals.
A government now has to prove it has a specific “compelling interest” – rather than a mere “rational basis” – when it treats gay, lesbian or bisexual people differently in any way.
In another interview, with the Palm Springs gay magazine The BottomLine on Aug. 1, Minter said that if the California ballot measure to amend the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage fails in November, it will be a “crushing defeat” for gays’ opponents.
”If we defeat this proposition, as I believe we will, that victory will resonate across the country,” he said. “Not only will marriage in California be secure, but we will have demonstrated that efforts to politically exploit anti-gay bias no longer work. We have a chance here in California to deal a crushing defeat to the anti-gay forces that have caused incalculable damage to our community for years. This is our opportunity to make a difference that will go down in history books as a critical turning point.”
Minter also talked with The BottomLine about his 1996 sex-change operation.
”I have been struck by how much more immediate ‘unearned’ credibility and respect I get as a completely average-looking man than I did as a visibly masculine-appearing woman,” Minter said. “The difference is stark – whether it is service in a restaurant or on a plane, or appearing in court.”