Sunday, February 12, 2012

Court Strikes Down CA Gay Marriage Ban

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ, recently made a powerful statement against Gov. Chris Christie's proposal to put gay marriage to a referendum. This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit applied similar reasoning to Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in California. The three-judge panel (two in favor, one dissenting) in San Francisco ruled that the proposition violated the equal protection rights of two gay couples involved in the suit. The decision specifically relates to Proposition 8, but it is a step in the right direction. It makes the case that a majority has no right to arbitrarily restrict the rights of a minority:

The two judges on Tuesday stated explicitly that they were not deciding whether there was a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, instead ruling that the disparate treatment of married couples and domestic partners since the passage of Proposition 8 violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

“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,” Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt wrote in the decision. “There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”

“All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation ‘marriage,’ ” the judge wrote, adding, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.”

...Unlike the 2008 State Supreme Court decision here overturning an earlier ban on same-sex marriage, this decision is not about to set off a race to the chapel by same-sex couples. A stay imposed on Judge Walker’s original decision will remain in place, at least for two weeks. Theodore B. Olson, one of the lawyers who challenged the ban, said he would seek to get the stay lifted; backers of Proposition 8 said they would oppose that.

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