California Gay Marriage Ban Overturned

Lauren Dahlberg-Seeth

After numerous protests and lawsuits targeting the newest addition to California’s state constitution, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8 on Aug. 4, 2010 during the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, where he found the ban on same-sex marriage to be unlawful.

In the 2008 California state elections, Proposition 8 passed with 52.24% in favor. The amendment, which reads “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the State of California,” was then added to the state’s constitution.

In May 2009, Alameda residents Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir, as well as Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, were declined marriage licenses. The couples sued the county clerks who denied them marriage, as well as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown, and two officials in the Department of Public Health.

Opening statements of the Kristin M. Perry v. Arnold Schwarzenegger trial began in early January 2010, and closing arguments were given in mid-June. On Aug. 4, a 138-page document was published stating that Judge Walker ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

“Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” ruled Walker. “Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

The case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger will go on to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals during the week of Dec. 6, where three randomly selected judges of the Ninth Circuit will review the case and come to a conclusion. It is expected that the losing side of the case will then appeal to either to the Supreme Court or to an 11-judge panel of the appeals court.

Although the case’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit was expedited, it is expected to be months before the decision is made. From there, the rulings of higher courts could take two to three years, according to the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Regardless of how the courts handle the case, California’s gay rights activists plan to present this issue on the 2012 ballot.

“We need to keep marching, keep sharing our truth until legal equality is secured in every state and at the federal level,” said Molly McKay, media director for Marriage Equality USA, in an interview with Bay Area Reporter Online.
Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.

It could be a long fight, but gay rights activists and Prop 8 supporters alike will continue to defend their beliefs until the matter is settled.