The Counsellor's Corner


So, how are you feeling about same-sex marriages these days?  If you are in favor, you may want to move to Vermont, if you are against, you may be better off in Hawaii.

In late December of last year, the Vermont Supreme Court became the first high court of any state to rule that gay couples must be allowed to receive the same benefits and protections given to married couples under state law.  Let me be clear on what this ruling says and what it does not say.  In this matter of Baker v. Vermont, the Court did not order the State to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples; the Court left it to the Vermont legislature to decide whether or not same-sex couples can in fact marry, or whether a parallel domestic partnership system should be set up.

The Court did its best to stay away from religious, moral, and political beliefs, acknowledging that they had nothing to do with its ruling, and that the ruling was based only on the State Constitution and the rights of same-sex couples to obtain the same secular benefits that are presently offered to married couples.

The State had argued that the Court should rule otherwise, indicating their interest in furthering the link between marriage, procreation and child rearing. 

The Court felt differently, however, indicating that the legal benefit from marriage or a statutory equivalent are such that if any type of couple is to be excluded from these benefits, the State must show that “the justice of the deprivation cannot seriously be questioned.”  The Court ruled unanimously in this case that the State did not come close. 

December was a key month for same-sex marriages as in early December the Hawaii State Supreme Court upheld its state’s ban on same-sex marriages. 

All of this will come home to roost in our fair State of California as we are approximately two months away from facing a ballot initiative that would bar this state from recognizing same-sex marriages.  This is Proposition 22, which will be on the ballot in March and which, if you are not familiar with it yet you soon will be as I imagine we will be inundated with television commercials from both sides in the next couple of months.

This is clearly a difficult issue for this country, and similar to the number one divisive topic of abortion, this topic yields strong reactions from people whenever it is broached.

So, take your pick, Hawaii or Vermont.  I have a strong opinion on this issue which will be addressed in a future column, before the vote in March.


Dr. Charles J. Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth.  Mr. Unger writes a bimonthly column on legal and psychological issues.