The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that decreed Proposition 8, the voter referendum that outlawed same-sex marriage in California, is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel, in a 2-1 decision, ruled in Perry v. Brown that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships. Proposition 8 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 classify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples,” wrote Judge Reihnardt in the majority opinion.
A stay was imposed on same-sex marriages in anticipation of future appeals, so couples will not immediately be able to marry. Opponents are expected to continue the appeals process all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but no timeline has been set.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sole sponsor of Perry v. Brown, held a press conference to applaud the decision.
Other LGBT groups hailed the ruling. “It is a unique and honored position to be an eyewitness to history. 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,” said Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “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.”
Significantly, the court upheld the August 2010 ruling by then-presiding Judge Vaughn Walker in favor of dismantling Prop 8. Marriage equality opponents sought to have his ruling thrown out because he did not disclose that he was in a long-term same-sex relationship, and that fact allegedly created bias in his ruling. Today, the Ninth Circuit found that argument baseless.