Proposition 8 Declared Unconstitutional

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February 7, 2012
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In a historic decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court judgment and ruled 2-1 that Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative prohibiting same-sex marriages, violates the federal constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The decision did not define a Constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, but rather focused on the disparate treatment of gay couples. The opinion, written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, stated that there was no legitimate reason to treat same-sex couples differently.

The 89-page majority opinion rejected as unsubstantiated the major arguments offered by proponents of Proposition 8--that banning same-sex marriages encourages and protects heterosexual marriages and protects children.

"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," Reinhardt wrote. 

The ruling applies only to California. As such, legal observers believe it is less likely for the United States Supreme Court to take the case on appeal, or if it does, to issue a sweeping ruling.

The ban on same-sex marriages in California remains in effect while the Ninth Circuit's ruling is appealed.