Appeals Court Upholds Repeal of Prop 8


Ken Pierce of Equality Action Now waves a rainbow flag outside the James R. Browning Courthouse where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Calif., listens to arguments about the latest court decision to overturn Proposition 8, which forbid gay marriage in California.

Maya Sherne, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the  2010 ruling from the lower court  that effectively repealed Proposition 8, a statewide ban on gay marriage. Proposition 8 originally passed in 2008 with a 52 percent to 48 percent vote.

The gay marriage controversy has forever been a hot topic in California. Fuel was added to the fire in 2008, when voters approved Proposition 8, a bill outlawing same-sex marriage. The goal of Prop 8 was to re-define marriage in the state following a recent court case upholding the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

In October 2009, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act, a bill stating that same sex marriages performed outside of California could be recognized under state law.

“We had it for a few months, we’ve been put on hold, some just hit the pause button,” said Leslie Stewart, the Contra Costa Chapter Leader of Marriage Equality USA. “California feels like we are marking time and waiting.”

Marriage Equality USA is a volunteer-driven national organization founded in 2001 “to secure legally recognized civil marriage equality for all, at the federal and state level, without regard to gender identity or sexual orientation,” according to their website.

“We are a nationwide group, but much of our work is locally based,” Stewart said.  “We have people at every demonstration and all the rallies, to try and inform others on a local level.”

“I don’t think we are looking at anything violent,” Stewart said. “When the case is eventually determined once and for all, you might see some bad behavior from the losing side.”

Many activists, as well as those who oppose same sex marriage, are concerned with potential violence regarding the trial, referring to the vandalism and violence advocation post- and pre-Proposition 8.

“I don’t think our organization is worried on a personal level,” Stewart said. “During the Prop 8 campaign there was bad behavior on both sides.”

Since then, 17 major court cases have been heard in California courts regarding same sex marriage.

“We believe you should not put civil rights up for a popular vote,” Stewart said. “We are very happy the court system is being used.”

The Appeals Court upheld the ruling of 9th Circuit Court, which concluded that the trial court judge had correctly interpreted the Constitution and Supreme Court precedents when he threw out Proposition 8.

“I think people are steadily more optimistic, each time more decisions are made for our side,” Stewart said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the case passed, although it will not take effect until Tuesday, Feb. 21. The court concluded that any state laws or amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal treatment.

“Everyone really believes in their cause,” Stewart said. “Whoever loses will be very disappointed and hurt.”

Lawyers for the coalition of religious conservative groups, the same ones who created Prop 8, are unsure whether to ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the trial, or to take it straight to the Supreme Court.  If so, both advocates for gay marriage and their opponents are unsure of the outcome.

“We had a gathering and a chance to discuss what happened at the trial, and what comes next,” Stewart said.  “We are prepared to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether such a ban denies gays and lesbians “equal protection of the laws” under the 14th Amendment.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court is viewed as a more conservative body than the lower courts that have previously considered the case, pro-gay rights groups are worried about the trial, but remain optimistic.

Regardless, neither those opposed nor advocating for same sex marriage will give up anytime soon.

“We are looking at other chapters to see how we can offer support,” Stewart said.  “We look around the country and see other battles going on, and are prepared to help out in [Washington] if they are to fight a ballot measure like Proposition 8.”

The National Organization for Marriage, whose mission is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it,” declined to comment.