Constitutional Law

9th Circuit Strikes Down California Ban on Gay Marriage

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A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, is unconstitutional.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling (PDF), said Proposition 8’s limitations on access to marriage took away rights from a vulnerable minority without benefiting parents, children or the institution of marriage.

“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 reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority. “The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.”

Proposition 8, approved in a referendum by California voters in 2008, declared marriage to be the union of a man and a woman. It repealed a May 2008 state supreme court ruling that had legalized same-sex marriage in California.

The ban will remain in effect while the case works its way through the appeals process, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Gay rights advocates hailed the ruling as the latest in a string of state victories in favor of same-sex marriage.

“This monumental appellate decision restores California to the growing list of states and countries that have ended exclusion from marriage and will further accelerate the surging nationwide majority for marriage,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, in a statement.

Proponents vowed to appeal the ruling, either to the full 9th Circuit or to the U.S. Supreme Court. John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, noted in a statement the high U.S. Supreme Court reversal rate for the 9th Circuit and for Reinhardt’s decisions in particular. “Today’s ruling is a perfect setup for this case to be taken by the U.S. Supreme Court, where I am confident it will be reversed.”

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