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February 07, 2012

Category: Marriage, State Advocacy, California

Federal Appeals Court Agrees: California’s Proposition 8 Is Unconstitutional

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Discriminatory Amendment

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised the historic decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirming the August 2010 conclusion of U.S. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown) that the amendment to the California Constitution barring marriage for same-sex couples, adopted in November 2008 as Proposition 8, violates the U.S. Constitution.  In a 2-1 decision authored by Judge Reinhardt, the court agreed that Proposition 8’s only purpose in denying gay and lesbian Californians the freedom to marry was anti-gay animus, something the Constitution does not permit. 

“Today’s decision affirms what we all know to be true – our Constitution protects the basic civil rights of all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Proposition 8 does nothing to strengthen or protect any marriage.  Instead, it singles out thousands of loving California families for different treatment, simply because they are gay and lesbian couples.  We applaud the Ninth Circuit for recognizing that our Constitution cannot tolerate such egregious discrimination.”

“We thank the courageous plaintiff couples, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies for their years of work leading to today’s decision.  This is not the end of the road, for this case or for the larger struggle for marriage equality.  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.  His historic decision in August 2010 was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.    

The proponents of Prop 8 are now likely to appeal this decision, either to be considered by a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit (referred to as an en banc rehearing) or for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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