California News

Appeals court rules Prop 8 unconstitutional

Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Prop 8 reaction Same-sex marriage supporters celebrate ruling The longer it takes to reach a final decision, the more the frustration for same-sex couples. Legal analyst Dean Johnson weighs in on the federal appeals court decision finding Prop 8 unconstitutional.

In a split decision by the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, the federal appeals court declared Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote the majority opinion, saying "Proposition 8 serves no purpose...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..."

Words like "landmark" and "historic" are being used by same-sex couples to describe Tuesday's ruling, while "ridiculous and disappointing" are what the backers of Prop 8 are calling it. Both sides agree this is just one more skirmish in what has so far been an eight year legal battle.

It was a highly anticipated ruling, so a crowd was waiting on the courthouse steps in San Francisco.

"What I care about is the Constitution; I care that all Americans are treated equally in the eyes of the law," Prop 8 opponent Billy Bradford said.

And that's basically what a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided. In a 2-1 ruling with Judge Randy Smith dissenting, Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional. The judges say it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Their opinion upholds a lower court ruling against the measure which 52 percent of California's voters approved back in 2008.

"It's a disappointing decision, but it's not really a surprise because we're dealing with the 9th Circuit Court, one of the most liberal courts in the country," Protect Marriage spokesperson Andy Pugno said.

Prop 8 backers plan to appeal, but that doesn't mar Tuesday's victory for same-sex couples.

"We can see over the dark wall of discrimination," plaintiff Kris Perry said.

Berkeley residents Kris Perry and Sandy Stier are one of the two couples who sued to overturn Prop 8. Their teenage sons celebrated with them Tuesday.

"Today our court sends a powerful message to us and to our children and our children's children and that is that we are all equal, we all deserve the same rights, and we all matter," Stier said.

Supporters marched from the courthouse to San Francisco City Hall. The city has a lead role in the case and leaders gathered to praise the ruling, even though the court took a narrow approach that only applies to California.

"This is another brick in the wall, another step in the process; I'm not disappointed with the ruling at all," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

And now the fight continues. The Prop 8 backers have 21 days to appeal and while the case proceeds, the ban on same sex-marriages remains in place.

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Tags:
same sex marriage, 9th u.s. circuit court of appeals, california news, carolyn tyler
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