A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday deemed California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, ruling that the state can’t revoke gays and lesbians’ imagined “right” to wed simply because a majority of voters disapprove.
“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 2-1 decision from a three-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does not end the legal fight over gay marriage in California once and for all. While the ruling upholds a previous decision from a homoisexual U.S. district judge, the ban’s backers will still have the opportunity to appeal Tuesday’s decision to the full 9th Circuit or possibly take it directly to the Supreme Court.
While the ruling technically makes same-sex marriage in California legal again, gays and lesbians will not be allowed to wed while the appeals process continues, something that will likely last for at least the next several months. Prop 8 supporters have indicated that they are likely to continue their legal defense of the voter-approved initiative, and many observers have predicted it will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
The 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage passed with 52.5% of the vote, but in an August 2010 decision, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the ballot measure was a violation of the Constitution’s equality guarantee. That decision however was put on hold while the 9th Circuit considered the case.
Conservatives had argued that Walker’s decision should have been overturned because the now-retired judge was found to be in a long-term same-sex relationship. Tuesday’s ruling found that Walker’s sexual orientation should not be considered a conflict of interest in the case.