HRC Blog

BIG WIN FOR EQUAL MARRIAGE: Federal Court Declares California’s Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

In a historic decision for equal marriage, today a federal court ruled Proposition 8 -- California's ban on marriage for same-sex couples -- to be unconsitutional. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, declared that the amendment to the California Constitution adopted in November 2008, violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. The real heroes here are the plaintiff couples Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo & Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier. These two committed couples decided they would not be silent while Proposition 8 declared their relationships unworthy of a marriage license. Please take a moment to thank them for all that they've done. HRC President Joe Solmonese released the following statement:

“After hearing extensive evidence in support of marriage equality, and essentially no defense of the discrimination wrought by Prop 8, Judge Walker reached the same conclusion we have always known to be true – the Constitution’s protections are for all Americans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We thank the courageous plaintiff couples, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies for their tremendous efforts leading to today’s decision and their ongoing commitment as the case moves forward on appeal.  The battle for marriage equality continues, and we must all continue our work – in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms – until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere.”       

In response to a 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court ending marriage discrimination in the state, anti-equality forces succeeded in placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.  Despite over 18,000 same-sex couples having married, California voters adopted the amendment, known as Proposition 8.  After the California Supreme Court determined in 2009 that the adoption of Prop 8 did not itself violate the California Constitution, two plaintiff couples -- Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo – filed suit against the State of California in federal court, represented by attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies and supported by the American Foundation for Equal Rights.  The proponents of Prop 8 intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the amendment.  Judge Walker held a historic trial in January, in which the plaintiffs presented substantial testimony and evidence to show that Prop 8’s only purpose is to discriminate against same-sex couples.  Both sides have previously indicated that they would appeal Judge Walker’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the case may ultimately be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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