[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], California’s ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder], is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the voter-approved [JURIST report] constitutional amendment violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. According to the court:
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. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted. Because under California statutory law, same-sex couples had all the rights of opposite-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, all parties agree that Proposition 8 had one effect only. It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right—the right to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships. … 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 for this sort.”
The court also found that Proposition 8 supporters had standing to appeal and dismissed a motion to vacate the judgment below over claims of judicial bias. Judge NR Smith dissented, finding that Proposition 8 is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. An appeal is expected to the full Ninth Circuit and eventually to the US Supreme Court. It is unclear if and when same-sex marriages will resume in California.
Last week the Ninth Circuit ruled that videos from the Proposition 8 trial must remain sealed [JURIST report]. The court heard arguments in December on whether the video recordings should be released to the public and whether the district court should have vacated Judge Vaughn Walker’s original ruling [JURIST reports] because he later revealed that he was in a same-sex relationship. The Ninth Circuit initially heard arguments on Proposition 8’s constitutionality in December 2010, but then asked the California Supreme Court [JURIST reports] to rule on whether defendants had standing to appeal. The high court ruled in November that they did have standing [JURIST report].