State Supreme Court Reinforces Basic Freedoms

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This was a big year for the California Supreme Court, perhaps its biggest year this decade. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of the Court’s decision in In re Marriage Cases (2008) 43 Cal.4th 757, where the Court struck down California statutes that limited marriage to a union “between a man and a woman.” The case is important not only because of its result and its political significance, but also because of the subsidiary legal holdings leading to the result and the style of reasoning employed in the decision.

We see in In re Marriage Cases, and in a number of other decisions this term, a supremely confident, independent high court that is not afraid to go its own way on major issues of law. “Freedom” has been a recurrent theme this year, and in each of the cases reviewed below, the California Supreme Court is out ahead of nearly all other jurisdictions in asserting some basic freedom of action and behavior.

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California Bar Journal