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Breaking News: Ninth Circuit Court Panel Rules Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

A three judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco just decided (2-1) that Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. The Court upheld Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 decision to strike down Proposition 8, with Judge Stephen Reinhardt writing, “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 people differently…Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.” The case, filed by ProtectMarriage, is expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The Ninth Circuit judges continued the stay on Judge Walker’s decision while the litigation continues. In other words, lesbian and gay couples will not be allowed to marry until litigation is finished.

FMF Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Equality California Kathy Spillar praising the decision said, “We are thrilled with today’s ruling upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry. As the trial showed, there truly is no substance to the arguments of those who would deny full equality to lesbians and gay men. Same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same freedom as other Californians to marry the person they love.”

In August 2010, Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned a 6 to 1 ruling by the California Supreme Court in May 2009 that upheld the measure. In 2008, Proposition 8 was passed by voters in an electoral referendum.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, exclaimed, “The court’s ruling affirms what millions of people all across the country already know – loving, committed same-sex couples and their families should be able to share in the celebration and responsibilities of marriage. People from every background and every circumstance get this; they understand because being able to marry the one you love and care for your family are shared values that strike at the very core of who we are as a people. Denying loving couples and their families something so fundamental is to deny our common humanity…This is a great day for them, for all Californians, and for all Americans.”

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and a longtime advocate for lesbian and gay rights, asserted, “This is a long and winding road but marriage equality, which is winning the hearts and minds of the people, will ultimately prevail in the courts.”

LA Times 2/7/12; The Task Force 2/7/12; Huffington Post 2/7/12; NPR 2/7/12; New York Times 2/7/12