BREAKING: California’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Author: February 7, 2012 9:57 am

UPDATE: Same-sex marriages are on hold for 21 days while an injunction is in effect.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling today in regards to Proposition 8 in California, the controversial “Marriage Initiative” which amended the California constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. A lower court had ruled that the initiative was unconstitutional, but a stay was placed of that ruling. Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that they will uphold the lower court’s ruling, striking down the initiative as unconstitutional and moving us one step closer towards same-sex marriage in California.

?”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.” -Judge Stephen Reinhardt, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

While marriage equality advocates rejoice, the strong possibility that this case will make it all the way to the Supreme Court still looms.


Prior to the ruling being announced, the Mercury News released a Q&A highlighting some of the possibilities for what comes next.

Q What is likely to happen after the 9th Circuit rules Tuesday?

A The losing side can ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with an 11-judge panel, a process known as en banc review. A majority of the 9th Circuit’s two dozen full-time judges must vote to rehear a case en banc, but this often occurs in high-profile cases where there is disagreement within the court. The losing side has 14 days to ask for such a rehearing. If the 9th Circuit refuses to grant the request, the next step is the U.S. Supreme Court.

Q How long will all this take?

A The legal fight over Proposition 8 isn’t likely to be concluded anytime soon. If the 9th Circuit rehears the case with an 11-judge panel, that appeal is likely to stretch through this year. And whatever the outcome in the 9th Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court is almost certain not to get a look at the case before the upcoming presidential election.

Q What would be the impact of a 9th Circuit ruling declaring California’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional? Would it legalize gay marriage in all nine Western states covered by the 9th Circuit?

A It depends. The court can take a narrower approach and apply its ruling only to California, finding that Proposition 8 violates the rights of same-sex couples because it stripped away a previous right established in a California Supreme Court ruling in 2008 (Proposition 8 wiped that ruling off the books). Or the court can issue a more sweeping ruling that finds any such state ban unconstitutional, which would extend the ruling’s reach.

While this is a huge victory for California, the fight for marriage equality throughout the United States continues.

We’ll post the full statement from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals here as soon as it becomes available.

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