By Naomi R. Rodriguez
Politics & Culture Reporter

Newlyweds Yvonne and Kaitlin Ashley-Neis take a seat during a chilly fall day. Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, passed after Nov. 4 elections, beating opponents by about 500,000 votes. The couple is disheartened but hopeful.

“I have always been into the activism part of it,” Yvonne, a UC Santa Cruz student, said. “When I wanted to get married it became real — a reality. I was invested … I was pretty sad about [Proposition 8’s outcome] but I think no one can take what we have and all those people who got married, they can’t take away what they have.”

Yvonne and Kaitlin are one of 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed after the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22 in May 2008.

Yvonne recalled her wedding day in June of this past summer.

“It was amazing,” she said. “We got married the first day we could, which was June 17. We went to the courthouse on Ocean [Street]. They decorated it all really pretty. They put a little altar and flowers everywhere.”

Though Yvonne and Kaitlin received their domestic partnership the previous year, Kaitlin proposed again when marriage between same-sex couples became legal.

“It felt a lot different. When you get a domestic partnership it kind of feels like getting your car registered,” said Kaitlin, who recently moved from Sacramento to be with Yvonne. “Getting married was like ‘Wow — we got married.’”

For many couples, a civil union does not measure up to a marriage that cites equal rights for all people. Proposition 8 redefined what marriage is in the California Constitution, unlike its earlier incarnation Proposition 22, which only amended the civil code.

“It’s hard because when we fill out forms like W4s we have to mark them ‘single,’ but we’re not,” Kaitlin said. “We’re married. Domestic partnerships? They don’t recognize that. If she gets sick and she dies, I don’t have a say in what to do with the remains — it goes to her parents.”

Proposition 22 won with 61 percent of the votes in 2000. It is almost identical to Proposition 8, just 14 words: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 22 was overturned in a San Francisco court in 2005, but that decision was quickly overturned again. The California Supreme Court overturned that ruling in May 2008, once again allowing gay marriage, but Proposition 8 amended the state constitution to disallow the marriages.

Former San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer was the bellwether of this case.

“I was the first judge that dealt with it, and I held it unconstitutional based on equal protection and substantive due process grounds,” said Kramer, who overturned Proposition 22 in March 2005. “I went to a court of repeal and the court of repeal reversed me 2-1, and then I went to the [California] Supreme Court and the Supreme Court reinstated what I did 4-3 … It took a lot of work and a lot of thought.”

Now that Proposition 8 has changed the constitution, the battle for same-sex rights may have to go to the national court level. Three lawsuits have already been filed against the proposition in San Francisco. California Chief Justice Ronald M. George declined to comment due to the recent litigations.

Yvonne and Kaitlin want to have children some day. Yvonne is working toward a degree in politics, and they both hope to move to San Francisco after she gets out of school.

“I think it’s great that they want to give us all the same rights, but I think it sucks that they want to call it something else, like we’re second-class citizens.” Yvonne said. “I think you should be proud of who you are and not let other people bring you down. You shouldn’t give up, especially if you’re married already.”