On Tuesday, February 7th, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional in a 2-1 opinion.
For those not familiar with Proposition 8, it was a ballot initiative in California in 2008 which amended the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. When the proposition was enacted into law 18,000 same-sex couples had already married in the state. Those marriages were left intact.
The 9th Circuit decision was narrowly tailored to apply only to California, but it still has the potential to positively effect future marriage equality court cases because of the published reasoning.
Proponents of Proposition 8 now have to decide if they want to request an en banc hearing of the 9th Circuit or appeal the decision directly to The Supreme Court.
My suspicion is that they will request an en banc hearing because doing so will keep the stay in place that is preventing gay Californians from getting married at this time, and it draws out the process by another couple of years. Delaying tactics are really the only thing they have going for them at this point. (Though, with how quickly US opinion is shifting on this issue, time is their enemy in the end.)
Appealing directly to the Supreme Court would speed things up, likely resulting in a final decision next year at the latest. Because of how the 9th Circuit decided the case, there’s a good chance the Supreme Court will refuse to hear it, or if they do take the case, that they’ll uphold the 9th Circuit decision.
I have been following the case ever since it went to trial before Judge Walker in 2010, and it has been a fascinating experience. I’ve read trial transcripts, briefings, and lengthy court decisions. The whole thing has given me a new awareness of how our judicial process works and the intricacies of constitutional law.
For anyone interested in Proposition 8, or news concerning marriage equality in general, I highly recommend taking a look at this site. In addition to posts whenever there were new developments, and posts discussing legal strategies and comment, there are links to a timeline of events for anyone wanting to get caught up on the history. You can also read many of the court documents, including the decision striking down Prop 8.
The other happy development is here in my own state. Last week, on February 1st, the Washington State Senate passed a marriage equality bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry. Yesterday, February 8th, the House passed the bill. Since Governor Christine Gregoire was the one who introduced the legislation and helped to assure its passage, she will be signing it into law.
Unfortunately, that most likely won’t make marriage equality in Washington a done deal. Conservative religious groups are already gearing up to collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot this coming November. They’ll have about three and a half months to collect signatures and experts believe they’ll be able to meet the early June deadline.
I wish these zealots would pay attention to the thoughts expressed by Senator Mary Margaret Haugen from Camano Island. Despite her strong personal religious convictions, and being a Democrat senator up for re-election in a Republican-leaning district, she became the 25th vote for the bill, which guaranteed that it would pass in the Senate. Her full remarks can be read here. I can’t help but admire her dedication to the American ideal.
Just for the record, I have zero interest in getting married personally. I’m a confirmed loner. But marriage equality is important to me for two reasons. The first being the obvious, that all citizens of the United States should have the same rights. The second being that, while marriage is not something important to all gay people as individuals, it is important to gay people as a whole because equality in that area will directly and positively impact and improve equality in other areas.