Court rules Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

Protestors holding pro-gay marriage signs

Image via LA Times

“Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the court said.

The ruling upheld a decision by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who struck down the ballot measure in 2010 after holding an unprecedented trial on the nature of sexual orientation and the history of marriage.

In a separate decision,  the appeals court refused to invalidate Walker’s ruling on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a long term same-sex relationship.  Walker, a Republican appointee who is openly gay, said after his ruling  that he had been in a relationship with another man for 10 years. He has never said whether he and partner wished to marry.

This is the latest victory in the fight against Proposition 8, passed in 2008 by CA voters on a slim margin.

Unfortunately, this is likely not the last step. An appeal to the Supreme Court is likely, and there the decision will probably rest on the shoulders of Justice Kennedy. But the Supreme Court ruling could have wider impact on the ability of same-sex couples to marry nationwide, whereas this decision only affects California.

In terms of CA gay and lesbian couples right now, it’s unclear whether they will be able to marry:

The first issue on everyone’s minds is whether same-sex couples can wed immediately if Prop 8 is struck down. The answer is that it depends on whether a stay is issued in the case. After Judge Walker issued his decision, a stay on his ruling was also issued that kept Prop 8 in effect as a law until such time that another court struck it down, meaning California’s same-sex couples have not been able to wed since his ruling. If the 9th Circuit panel or another court body issues a stay, same-sex couples cannot wed. Many legal observers expect a stay if Prop 8 is struck down, however it’s not entirely certain.

Today is just full of #win.

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