Tuesday, February 07, 2012

U.S. Court of Appeals says Proposition 8 unconstitutional

From the American Foundation for Equal Rights this afternoon, a big court victory for same sex marriage in the U.S. When equality and love prevail, it is always worth celebrating:
San Francisco, CA – Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in Perry v. Brown upholding the historic August 2010 decision of the Federal District Court that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In an opinion authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the Ninth Circuit concluded that Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Proposition 8 stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental freedom to marry.

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect in California, 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 of this sort,” Judge Reinhardt wrote.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the sole sponsor of the Perry case.

“Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, as the courts have repeatedly throughout our nation’s history, that singling out a class of citizens for discriminatory treatment is unfair, unlawful and violates basic American values,” said AFER Board President Chad Griffin. “Like many other Americans, our plaintiffs want nothing more than to marry the person they love. Committed, loving couples and their families should not be denied this most fundamental freedom.”
Here's a bold prediction from the notable Republican lawyer who took on this case:
“This is a huge day: The United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, which represents nine states and certain territories, has decided that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional," said Theodore B. Olson, one of the attorneys representing the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which challenged Proposition 8. Speaking at a news conference here Tuesday morning, Mr. Olson said he was now “very confident” the Supreme Court would uphold this decision and nullify the voter initiative.
That looks like where it is headed. The narrow decision that the 9th Circuit made is the basis for Olson's view.
The decision, though, was narrowly cast. The judges specifically avoided drawing any grand constitutional right to marriage, unlike the decision by Mr. Walker. Instead, they decided it on narrow grounds, referring to California law and its handling of the rights of domestic partnerships, in a way that might make it difficult to extend the logic of the ruling to other states.

"It's striking that the court - or at least the two judges - went out of their way to define the judgment as narrowly as they could," said Douglas NeJaime, an associate professor at Loyola law school in Los Angeles. He said the narrowness of the decision could influence the Supreme Court to take a road it often favors: issuing narrow and incremental decisions instead of sweeping ones.

"The laws of other states won't be directly impacted," he said.
That latter point leading some to speculate that the U.S. Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from this case at all. We shall see.

A good day for those fighting the good fight.