The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the August 2010 decision of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco striking down Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry in California.
The Court affirmed the ruling of former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker that Prop 8 discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court also rejected Prop 8 supporters’ offensive argument that Judge Walker should have refused to preside over the case because he is gay and in a relationship with a man.
“It is a unique and honored position to be an eyewitness to history,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq. (Kate is chair of the EJS board of directors.)
“The Ninth Circuit’s ruling finding that Proposition 8 violates the Constitution of this nation marks the first time a federal appellate court has held that a law excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry runs counter to our highest ideals of equality and fairness. With today’s ruling we are a giant step closer to the day when the promise of our Constitution squares with the lived reality of LGBT people.”
The court ruled that Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution because it “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
The supporters of Prop 8 have 15 days to ask the Ninth Circuit panel to reconsider its decision or to ask for reconsideration by a larger panel of judges on that court. Alternatively, they have 90 days to request that the Supreme Court of the United States review the case.
NCLR, Lambda Legal, ACLU of Northern California, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed an amicus brief urging the court to affirm Judge Walker’s decision.
EJS and more than forty public interest organizations represented pro bono by the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP also filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing on behalf of gay and lesbian plaintiffs in the case. The brief argued that Proposition 8 excludes an entire class of people – gay men and lesbians – from the long-standing institution of marriage, pushing them instead to the inherently unequal category of domestic partnership.