The Proposition 8 gay marriage ban in California was ruled unconstitutional by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. Prop 8, passed in 2008 by 52 percent of voters, limited legal marriage in California to opposite gender couples only. The ruling is considered yet another harsh blow to gay marriage opponents in California, but plans to appeal the Prop 8 ruling are already underway.
The California Supreme Court struck down a previous state-wide gay marriage ban in 2008. Gay marriage was legalized in the state, but those marriages were stopped after the state’s high court upheld Proposition 8 six months later as an acceptable amendment to the California constitution.
The federal appeals panel Prop 8 ruling upholds a decision by former Judge R. Vaughn Walker in 2010, who wrote in his decision that Proposition 8 “fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.” After retiring, Judge Walker later revealed he was gay and in a long-term, committed relationship, which prompted Prop 8 supporters to accuse him of bias in his ruling.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to declare the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban unconstitutional, stating that it “served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite sex couples.” According to the Prop 8 decision, the voter’sÂ initiative violated the 15th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Supporters of gay marriage equality cheered the Prop 8 ruling outside the courthouse in San Francisco when the decision was announced. However, same-sex marriages in California will not likely resume any time soon as the appeals process could stretch out for another year, or longer. Six states across the U.S. currently issue same-sex marriage licenses — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The District of Columbia also recognizes gay marriages.
Same-Sex marriage opponents are already making plans to appeal the Prop 8 ruling. The case could be appealed to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit or moved directly to the Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court has never made a ruling regarding same-sex marriage.