The judges ruled that a gay judge had the right to issue an earlier ruling in the case and that Proposition 8 had no effect on public policy that justified it being on the ballot.
By ANDREW HARMON
Feb. 7, 2012
A federal appeals court has ruled California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional, upholding retired U.S. district judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 decision in the high-profile case and setting up what could be an eventual showdown over the ballot measure at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nearly three years after two gay couples filed suit when state officials denied them marriage licenses, a three-judge panel with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Tuesday that by stripping gay Californians of the right to marry, Prop. 8 violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in an opinion that social conservatives have already slammed as textbook judicial activism.
“There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted,” Reinhardt continued. “Because under California statutory law, same-sex couples had all the rights of opposite-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, all parties agree that Proposition 8 had one effect only. It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right — the right to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Weddings of same-sex couples will not resume immediately in California, however. The court notes that a stay pending appeal remains in effect. Prop. 8 supporters have 14 days decide whether they will seek what’s known as en banc review by the Ninth Circuit; or the legal team could directly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court within 90 days.
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