The California Department of Corrections is preparing
new guidelines for gay marriages in prisons in response
to the court ruling
that legalized gay marriage in California.
Under the new rules, gay inmates will have the same
marriage rights as straight ones: They'll be able to marry non-inmates, but will be barred from marrying other inmates.
With straight inmates, this rule has rarely had an
immediate impact, given that male and female prisoners
are housed in different facilities.
However, Corrections is maintaining the policy in single-sex institutions in order to prevent intimidation and
harassment, according to department press secretary
Seth Unger. Otherwise, Unger said, prisoners found
out to have money or other assets might find themselves
coerced into marriages with more powerful inmates,
who then might try to lay claim to half of their net
"We're still developing our official policies and procedures
for complying with the court ruling," said Seth Unger, press secretary for corrections.
"We have never permitted inmates to marry other inmates
in the past. We do believe it would pose safety and
security concerns at our prisons. We do not expect
to permit inmate-to-inmate marriages as a result of this ruling."
So far, most gay rights, anti-gay rights and prisoner groups have remained largely
silent on the issue. The guidelines could also become
moot if conservative groups are able to pass Proposition
8 in the November elections. This constitutional initiative
would invalidate the May 15 California Supreme Court ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Field Poll results released on July 18 found likely voters in California inclined to reject
Prop. 8 by a 51 percent to 42 percent margin. However, supporters of Prop. 8 noted that a previous non-constitutional anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 22 in 2000, got 61 percent of the vote even though support appeared far
lower in polls before the election.
In June of last year, California became the first state
to offer conjugal and overnight visits with romantic
partners to gay inmates.
Rose Braz, campaign director for the prisoner rights
group Critical Resistance, said neither her group or
any others she knew about was currently planning on
suing over the policy. But she added that wasn't buying Corrections' explanation for the policy.
"Somebody might force Scott Peterson to marry them or
something?" Braz said. "The Department of Corrections can come up with a myriad
of reasons in their minds for passing this regulation.
Very few of them have anything to do with reality.
It's not based on a sound public policy but really on
demonizing people in prison and denying them constitutional
rights that have nothing to do with why they're in prison."