Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, is unconstitutional. In an opinion delivered by Judge Reinhardt, the court found that California’s Proposition 8 violates both the equal protection and due process clause of the United States Constitution. Reinhardt cited that the California Constitution “requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently.” The 2-1 decision found that there is no such reason. Judge Reinhardt argued:
“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lesson 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.”
He affirmed the decision of the district court and concluded:
“For now, it suffices to conclude that the People of California may not, consistent with the Federal Constitution, add to their state constitution a provision that has no more practical effect than to strip gays and lesbians of their right to use the official designation that the State and society give to committed relationships, thereby adversely affecting the status and dignity of the members of a disfavored class.”
This decision came 18 months after federal judge Vaughn Walker struck down the ban. The issue at hand is not only an issue of equal protection of rights, but an issue of whether or not a federal court can strip California voters of their right to the initiative process. Proposition 8 is a California voter passed initiative, an approved ban of same-sex marriage. It was voted into law in November of 2008, with 52% of California voters approving it.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the main backers of the 2008 proposition, have condemned the court’s ruling and plan to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Chairman of NOM John Eastman speaks to the preservation of the institution of marriage and argues:
“The push for uncoupling marriage and procreation makes it even more important to stick to traditional understandings of the institution. If you remove that connection, then society ought to just get out of the marriage business entirely and society should just have a free for all.”
NOM’s President Brian Brown adds:
“We have anticipated this outcome since the moment San Francisco Judge Vaughn Walker’s first hearing in the case. Now we have the field cleared to take this issue to the US Supreme Court, where we have every confidence we will prevail.”
While opponents of Proposition 8 celebrate in California, the ban on same-sex marriage legally remains in effect until the period for filing an appeal has passed. And based on the sentiments of the National Organization for Marriage and other proponents of Proposition 8, this issue will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Though I am opposed to Prop 8, the court's ruling today seems to diminish the vote of the majority of Californians. It is possible to use the constitution to the advantage of almost any particular viewpoint. Same sex marriage should be legalized, but so should majority rule.
Majority rule is not how you run a Republic or a Democratic Republic. Majority rule would have the USA to be run by Puritans. Just look at the history of this country.
While the People of California have the right to amend the Constitution using the initiative process, the initiative amendment power does not extend to fundamental rights...in 2004 the CA Supreme Court found that the right to marriage is a fundamental right--it is an integral part of a person's autonomy that is protected in the CA Constitution.
Although I understand where Heather is coming from...I just don't think it is smart to have the majority vote for a minority. A minority needs to be protected.
Democracy is a complicated business. In a society that strives for equality and justice, the rule of the majority isn't the end-all solution. A majority can diminish the rights and opportunities of the minority for the most trivial and unfounded of reasons. Even though you appear to support the cause of gay and lesbian couples, you ask that 'majority rule' prevail.
People of color, women, and other groups have been discriminated against by the majority in this country for centuries. Obviously, this has gotten better in recent times. Now, we look back at the thinking that supported this discrimination and comment on how uninformed it was. One day, we'll have the same reaction to the thinking by those people who argue that, somehow, allowing two people of the same sex to get married will rip the fabric that holds our society together apart.
Even though a large number (recent polls suggests it's no longer the majority) of Americans think it's ok, I cannot accept that this group can take away equal liberty from a smaller group just because the larger group is still backwards in its thinking.
That is what the USA is suppossed to do, because we are a Republic. Republicans who love to tell everyone this, seem to forget this when they want something.
I absolutely agree with your viewpoint, and after reading Jane's further explanation of the initiative process I understand how the court is simply putting to the test the constitutionality of the initiative voted into place by the majority. This obviously keeps initiatives in check, and the majority in check for that matter. I am interested to see, if this makes it to the Supreme Court, if Prop 8 will be found to be consistent with the constitution.