A federal appeals court ruled California’s 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional Tuesday, upholding an August 2010 decision.
“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 opinion, authored by Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, reads.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision claims Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment.
“This is a great thing — a long time coming,” said Andrew Albright, an ASUC senator and member of Sigma Epsilon Omega, a gay fraternity on campus. “I was in discussion section when I found out, and it took a lot to sit still and not freak out because I was so happy. I understand that this will probably go to the Supreme Court, but two federal courts have declared it unconstitutional, so this builds momentum.”
The Tuesday ruling comes after the measure was deemed unconstitutional in August 2010 by former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, a decision that was brought to the 9th Circuit court following an appeal by Prop 8 sponsors.
“This is quite exciting — we’ve been working on this issue for many years,” said city Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “The polls show that a significant majority of young people support marriage equality, and as this generation grows older I think the percent in favor of marriage equality will keep rising – eventually, we’ll win.”
Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, said the club has no official position on Prop 8 since its members have diverse views on the matter.
“Since its passage in 2008, it was clear Prop 8 would go through a long legal battle in the courts system,” Lewis said. “Those on both sides of the debate should take strong note that not only is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the most overturned circuit in the nation, but also the particular judge who authored the ruling, Stephen Reinhardt, is the most overturned federal judge in the nation. This should indicate that the legal battle over Prop 8 is far from over.”
Analysts predict that backers of the proposition are likely to appeal the proposition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s a lot to presume that the Supreme Court will declare gay marriage constitutional throughout the U.S., but they might at least overturn Prop 8,” Albright said. “Reading through this decision and through Vaughn Walker’s decision, honestly, it’s as if they’re writing to Supreme Court justices using arguments that could further be used in a Supreme Court case.”
The opinion addresses the fact that Prop 8 was voter-approved, saying that there must be adequate reason for a law that treats various peoples differently.
“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently,” the opinion reads. “There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”
Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement on the ruling later in the day Tuesday.
“The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry,” he said in the statement. “I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision.”