In a long anticipated decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which effectively defines marriage as only between a man and woman, amounts to an unconstitutional violation of the rights of same-sex couples to marry. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision of openly homosexual U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled in 2010 that the 2008 constitutional amendment, passed by the people of California, violated the equal protection rights of two homosexual couples who had filed suit to overturn the law.
While the latest ruling is a definite victory for proponents of homosexual marriage, the New York Times noted that the 2-to-1 decision “was much more narrowly framed than the sweeping ruling of Judge Walker, who asserted that barring same-sex couples from marrying was a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.”
The Times explained that the two concurring judges “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.”
Wrote Judge Stephen Reinhardt (photo) in the majority opinion: “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. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.” Added the judge: “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.’ 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.”
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Photo: Circuit Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt listens to arguments during a hearing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Dec. 6, 2010, in San Francisco: AP Images