CA Marriage Amendment Ruled Unconstitutional
Special Report - February 8, 2012
The legal battle over the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s marriage amendment, continues its journey to the U.S. Supreme Court, after a federal appeals court issued its long-awaited ruling in the case yesterday. Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court ruling that Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Justice Stephen Reinhardt, who authored the majority opinion issued February 7, stated that their decision applied only to the narrow case of California, which “had already extended to committed same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of ‘marriage,’ and Proposition 8’s only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation, while leaving in place all of its incidents.” The ruling, according to the justices, did not address the question of “[w]hether under the Constitution same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry.”
The ruling argued that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because its only effect was to strip same-sex couples of “the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and society recognition of their committed relationships.” It continued, “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. The Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of the sort.’”
According to Justice Reinhardt, “the Constitution requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently,” and protecting the definition of marriage in the State Constitution through Proposition 8 had “no such reason.” In the decision, the Court rejected the arguments made by defenders of Proposition 8 that the Amendment was “enacted to advance California’s interests in childrearing or responsible procreation” and that its absence would impact religious freedom rights and “parents’ rights to control their children’s education.”
The Court recognized that it was overturning the will of seven million Californians who voted in November 2008 to protect the definition of marriage in their State’s Constitution. However, it chastised that vote, saying, “By using their initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed, without a legitimate reason for doing so, the People of California, violated the Equal Protection Clause.”
Justice N.R. Smith dissented from the “majority’s analysis of other topics regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 8.” In his dissenting opinion he stated that he was “not convinced that Proposition 8 is not rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest” as Justice Reinhardt argued in the ruling. Justice Smith went on to state that, “Gays and lesbians are not a suspect or quasi-suspect class” nor is “sexual orientation” a “quasi-suspect classification.” He concluded, “Thus, Proposition 8 is subject to rational review basis, rather than to any heightened scrutiny. Under rational basis review, ‘we will uphold the legislative classification so long as it bears a rational relation to some legitimate end.’”
“The argument that marriage as the union of a man and a woman is so irrational that it is inexplicable on any grounds other than animosity and antipathy is baseless,” explained Proposition 8 lead counsel Charles J. Cooper in a press release from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). “Those pushing this argument condemn as bigoted not only a majority of Californians, but also an overwhelming majority of Americans from all walks of life, political parties, races, and creeds. The point was made best by New York’s high court: ‘The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude.’”
As a part of its decision, the 9th Circuit also recognized the legitimacy of the official sponsors of the Proposition 8 campaign to defend the Amendment in court. The Court found that the California Constitution and election laws allow official sponsors of an initiative measure “to represent the State’s interest in establishing the validity of a measure enacted by the voters, when the State’s elected leaders refuse to do so,” as was the case with Proposition 8.
Additionally, the Court left intact the stay on the issuance of same-sex “marriage” licenses while the case continues to make its way through the courts. Defenders of Proposition 8 have already stated their intentions to appeal the decision, which is expected to ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage--tried in San Francisco--turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court,” said ADF senior counsel Brian Raum. “Every pro-marriage American should be pleased that this case can finally go to the full 9th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. The ProtectMarriage.com legal team’s arguments align with every other federal appellate and Supreme Court decision on marriage in American history.”
The Gold Standard - FNC - Winter 2012
Prop 8 Ruling Gets Green Light - November 18, 2011
Why Gender Matters to Parenting - FNC - Spring 2010
9th Circuit Punts Prop 8 - January 6, 2011
NCFPC Joins Prop 8 Brief - September 24, 2010
9th Circuit Stays Prop 8 Ruling - August 16, 2010
Judge Won't Stay Prop 8 Ruling - August 13, 2010
Judge Rules Prop 8 Unconstitutional - August 5, 2010
The Issue That Will Not Go Away - FNC Spring 2010
California Court Upholds Marriage Amendment - May 26, 2009
Why Not Same-Sex “Marriage” - FNC - Spring 2010
California Amendment Not Retroactive - August 8, 2008
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