Whenever the accepted norms of society are changed, something unexpected always seems to pop up. With gay marriage in California, this truism of sorts is already starting to play out. According to a report in the Sacramento-based Capitol Weekly, the California Department of Corrections has now given the green light for gay prisoners to wed their same sex partners. The new policy is undoubtedly the kind of thing that few gays and lesbians foresaw when they were celebrating the legalization of same sex marriage back in May.

The corrections department, however, will not allow gay prisoners to marry in the same prison. A gay prisoner may only wed “non-inmates,” which may or may not start a flurry of lawsuits. Possibly in anticipation of that, corrections department officials are already citing a longtime rule that bars straight inmates from marrying fellow prisoners, which, as the Capitol Weekly points out, hasn't mattered too much since males and females are housed in separate facilities.

Homosexuality in prisons has always been a quiet reality among inmates–men and women have gay sex, but don't always identify themselves as gay or publicly profess their love for a person of the same sex. So with a new rule that officially validates gay love in California's corrections system, we may see yet another surprise outcome–more and more inmates could feel empowered enough to finally come out of the closet.

This is obviously good, but it won't be surprising that supporters of Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that would ban same sex marriage, will somehow use the corrections department's policy to scare the voting public. That kind of TV ad is probably already in the making.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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