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The Cutting Edge

From the Archives: A Profile of Former Chief Justice Ronald George Just After the Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Appointed to the court by Republican Governor PeteWilson in 1991 and elevated by him to chief justice in 1996, George has defied the expectations of conservatives and liberals alike. He has consistently cited his reliance on the rule of law, contained in the statutes and precedents of California and the constitutions of both the state and the United States, as the governing influences on his jurisprudence—not any particular ideology. Already nationally known as a leader in court administration, Chief Justice George has even more firmly secured his place in history with his recently authored decision In re Marriage Cases, which legalized same-sex marriage in California. Seventeen years after his initial appointment to the California Supreme Court and after more than 36 years on the bench, George has gained a reputation as a fair-minded moderate who can surprise supporters and detractors of various political views with his independence. …

“Basically, I call them as I see them,” says George. “I came to the court and I come to each decision without any predetermined fixed point of view. I think the obligation of any judge is to make an independent decision based upon the record of the evidence and the state of the law, and that does not result in always fulfilling predictions of outside observers.” That adherence to the law and refusal to base decisions on public preferences recently came to the fore once again, when, on May 15, 2008, in a 4-to-3, 121-page decision authored byGeorge,California’s Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry extends to all regardless of sexual orientation. California joined Massachusetts as the second state in the country to recognize this right. But George, and the California court, went one step further thanMassachusettswith its ruling by applying strict scrutiny to laws regulating sexual orientation as it does to issues of race, religion, and gender. To read the full article, go to http://stanford.io/YHi13Y 

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