The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that Proposition 8, amending the California Constitution by eliminating the previously determined right to same-sex marriage under California law, was unconstitutional under the United States Constitution. The decision was made on narrow grounds.
Essentially the majority rules that, because California has previously allowed same-sex marriages, Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because it eliminated a previous right to same-sex marriages. The majority ruled that there was no rational basis for treating same-sex married couples differently that opposite-sex married couples since existing domestic partnership law in California gave each and every right other than the right to use the term “marriage” to same-sex couples. In effect, the majority concluded that the only effect of Proposition 8 was to denigrate the status of same-sex couples by denying their relationships the term of “marriage.” This, the majority concluded, was not a rational basis for Proposition 8. In the words of the court:
[b]y using their initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed, without a legitimate reason for doing so, the People of California violated the Equal Protection Clause.
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You can read the decision here.