Gay Marriage and The Simpsons

In one ep., Homer becomes a preacher and begins marrying gay couples (after the town approves gay marriages). I’m wondering if this kind of thing would be legal anywhere in the US? Could a city say, “Aw, screw it. We’re marrying 'em.” and issue a marriage license to a gay couple (which presumably would only be valid within the city limits) and not have the state atty. general step in and say, “This isn’t valid for two reasons: 1.) This state doesn’t allow gay marriages. 2.) Cities aren’t allowed to make their own rules for what constitutes a valid marriage. You have to follow the state rules.”?

Didn’t San Francisco do exactly that? And then Arny and the state government had to step in and do…something… (memory fails…)

IIRC, that was a case of differing interpretations of state law, which eventually went to court and the city losing.

So it appears that the California Supreme Court slapped it down and voided the marriages.

Does that not answer your question then?

Nope. Because that’s an interpretation of a state law, and not an instance of a city passing a law which allows gay marriage. There’s a big difference between the two. The California court said that you cannot use this law as a justification to hand out marriage licenses to gay couples, not that the city can’t enact a law which says that gay marriages are legal within the city. Do you see the difference? And that’s only one state example, there could be states where local governments are allowed to set their own laws about marriage.

IANAL, but I believe that the fundamental item that is being missed is that the definition of marriage is under the jurisdiction of the State. Municipalities have no authority to create their own interpretations (unless it is provided by the State). In the same manner States have no authority to grant citizenship to individuals–that is solely the provision of the Federal Government.

Any wanker can “marry” two people. And, any two people can claim to be married. Without that marriage being recognized by the State, however, it has no legal status. Division of the estate, custody of children, entitlement to benefits, tax status, etc. are all determined by the legal status of the marriage. You can still say that you are married, but you cannot compel others to treat you that way.

Also happened in New Paltz NY, and IIRC it was a preacher who performed the SSMs

Nope, what was in the news was the Mayor of New Paltz officiating – and getting minor legal trouble for doing so. Though I remember a reference to the local UU church as being the venue for one wedding, so you may be right on that as well.

To answer the underlying question, municipalities have only the powers given them by states, in their constitution or statutes. AFAIK none of the states have empowerd any of their political subdivisions to decide what will constitute a legal marriage.

There is a very minor way in which, at least temporarily, it might be legal to conduct a gay marriage in a municipality in a state which does not recognize them statewide. This would be if there is no extant statewide constitutional or case-law decision on the subject, and the city court, ruling on a lawsuit (e.g., a gay couple goes to the City Clerk for a marriage license, is turned down, and sues in city court), determines that the state constitution’s equal protection clause or another relevant clause in that constitution requires that such licenses be given. As a court under the laws of the state, it’s required to act in accordance with the state constitution as it reads it; as a court whose jurisdiction is limited geographically to the city it is “in and for,” its ruling only applies to marriages celebrated within that city.

While such a case would most likely be immediately appealed by someone to a higher court, it does furnish one way in which a legally valid differentiation might be created between a city and the rest of the state in which it is located with regard to the legality of gay marriages (or, indeed, anything else where new precedent is being set).

But as for a city council adopting a gay marriage local law or ordinance, it could only do it if state law empowered it to do so – and even New York State, which has one of the most empowering municipal home rule codes in the nation, does not do so.

Mayor Jason West was in fact arraigned on misdemeanor charges for performing the marriage ceremonies.

I live pretty close to New Paltz. Big news, day to day up here in the local papers. I truly admire the way he stuck to his guns as far as he could with this.

Cartooniverse