Gay Marriage Ban Passes in California, then Challenged in Court

On an electoral night that was otherwise a positive one for civil rights and women’s rights activists, California’s Proposition 8, which amends the state’s constitution to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry, appears to have passed by 52 percent to 48 percent. Although the No on 8 campaign has yet to officially concede defeat, two petitions challenging the constitutionality of the initiative were filed with the California Supreme Court yesterday.

One of the petitions was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The other was filed by lesbian couple Diane Olson and Robin Tyler, who were among the original plaintiffs in the case which resulted in the Supreme Court decision in support of gay marriage in May this year.

Olson and Tyler are challenging Prop. 8 on several constitutional grounds. Primary among these is the argument that it amounts to a revision rather than simply an amendment to the state constitution. The constitution’s equal protection clause, they argue, applies to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. If straight couples are given the right to marry, so must gay couples. Lawyer Gloria Allred said that all her clients are asking for with this lawsuit “is equal rights under the law and equal respect and dignity for their families and their committed relationships.”

At a press conference to announce the legal filing, Robin Tyler, who, along with her wife, was visibly upset by the results of the vote, said, “This is not a culture war, it is a civil rights movement. This is not about our lifestyle, it is about our lives’. Olson added, “Our community is getting up this morning and drawing a line in the sand.”


Feminist Wire 10/17/2008; Statement by Gloria Allred, 11/05/2008; ACLU press release 11/05/2008

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