California Supreme Court overturns ban on same-sex marriage.

California Supreme Court overturns ban on same-sex marriage.

California Supreme Court overturns ban on same-sex marriage.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 16 2008 6:22 AM

Going to the Chapel

The Los Angeles Timesbanners, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsboxlead, while everyone else fronts, the California Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married. The 4-3 ruling that overturned California's ban on same-sex marriage cited a 60-year-old decision that struck down a ban on interracial marriage as precedent. The decision, which described marriage as a "basic civil right," means the nation's most-populous state is now the second in the country, after Massachusetts, to extend marriage rights to gay men and lesbians. But the LAT highlights that the California court went even further than Massachusetts because its decision "would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation." The WSJ says the decision is "the most important legal victory to date for proponents of same-sex marriage."

The Washington Postleads with a "wide-ranging speech" delivered by Sen. John McCain yesterday about how he envisions his first four years in the White House, where he said that he hopes to have most American troops back home by 2013. It marked the first time that McCain has attached a specific date to drawing down troops from Iraq. Although the comment seemed designed to counter Democratic claims that he would keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, McCain was quick to emphasize that he had not offered a firm date for withdrawal. USA Todayleads with a look at how some pilots and a government watchdog group aren't happy about efforts by the airlines to cut costs by decreasing the amount of spare fuel on airplanes. Pilots say that having less fuel on board makes it more likely that flights would have to be diverted because they can't circle for as long over airports if there are delays.

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The LAT is alone in describing the California Supreme Court decision as a "surprise" and notes that legal experts have often called the court, which is composed almost entirely of Republican-appointed justices, "cautious." The decision was met with loud cheers at the court's headquarters in San Francisco, but everyone points out the celebration might be short-lived. The usual suspects were quick to denounce the ruling as "judicial activism" and vowed to press on with plans for a ballot initiative that will almost certainly be included in the November ballot to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. If the amendment is approved by voters, it's unclear what would happen to the couples who get married between mid-June, when the ruling takes effect, and November.

Yesterday's decision will bring the issue of same-sex marriage back to the forefront and could have an impact on the presidential race. In an analysis piece inside, the NYT notes that none of the remaining presidential contenders has been eager to talk about the issue, though they all pretty much espouse the same view. Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton have all said they oppose same-sex marriage, while also emphasizing that the decision should be left up to the states. The Massachusetts decision authorizing same-sex marriages is widely believed to have had an impact on the 2004 presidential race, but the LAT points out that at the time voters were evenly split when asked whether a Democrat or Republican should become president. The next few months "should offer a test of whether the issue is resonant in American politics or whether it has fallen to the side of the road, as many Democrats and some Republicans say," writes the NYT's Adam Nagourney.

In his speech yesterday, McCain said his policies as president will lead to victory in Iraq by 2013. "Iraq is a functioning democracy. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced," McCain said as he described how he thinks the world will be after he finishes his first term. The NYT fronts the speech and bluntly states that McCain "offered no proposals for how he would achieve that vision" and notes that the "futuristic device" might have been employed "as a way to avoid 'Fact Check' rapid response e-mail from the Democrats," since none of what he said really involved checkable facts. Generally, McCain offered an almost idyllic vision of what the United States and the world would look like after he gets a crack at the Oval Office. Several Democrats, analysts, and Iraqis were quick to criticize the speech, calling it a nice enough vision but completely unrealistic. Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the speech was "almost in la-la land" and noted that it was full of "unsupported generalizations and predictions that he would have scoffed at as the old John McCain."

In a Page One piece, the LAT says that though McCain and Obama started their presidential campaigns with very different positions on Iraq, they now "seem to be edging toward a middle ground between them." While McCain is now mentioning dates, Obama is being more careful about making firm promises on a withdrawal date. These changes wouldn't be as significant if it weren't for the fact that they've both made Iraq a central issue to their campaigns. But now it's clear that they're trying to broaden their appeal to win over independent voters in November.

The NYT fronts, and everyone mentions, President Bush's controversial speech to the Israeli Parliament, where he compared those seeking to talk and negotiate with "terrorists and radicals" to appeasers of the Nazis. The remarks were widely seen as a criticism of Obama, who quickly fired back at the president for politicizing a speech that was meant to commemorate Israel's 60th anniversary. Many Democrats also spoke up and said it was disgraceful that the president would play partisan politics abroad. "I think what the president did … is beneath the dignity of the office of president," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. The White House insists the comments were not directed at Obama.

The LAT fronts news out of China, where government officials finally approved the first bit of help from foreign rescue experts as they estimated that the death toll from this week's earthquake would probably reach 50,000. The WSJ says "the new assistance may arrive too late" for those still buried under the rubble, since experts say chances of survival sharply decrease after 72 hours.

In an article for the can't-believe-this-happened-in-America pile, the NYT notes inside that a homeless man in Dallas was sentenced to 35 years in prison for harassing a public servant with a deadly weapon. The deadly weapon in question? His saliva. The homeless man apparently spat at a police officer who arrested him and told the officer that he had HIV. Obviously, none of the officers involved in the skirmish contracted HIV.

The LAT and NYT front the news that Anthony Pellicano, the infamous private eye to the stars, was found guilty of 76 federal criminal charges, including wiretapping and racketeering, among others. The NYT says it took the judge a full hour to read the verdict. In the end, the trial widely disappointed all those who thought it would be an exciting spectacle that might take down some of Hollywood's biggest names because his clients were never charged with anything, though some did testify. "The trial many had thought was a sure thing to lead to a Hollywood movie," says the NYT, "wound up more like potential fodder for a cable special, at most a movie of the week."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.