A victory for equality

Same-sex marriage will soon be legal (again) in California

The decision announced Tuesday (Feb. 7) by a panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Proposition 8, the 2008 state ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, marks the beginning of the end of the battle over marriage equality in California.

It will be a while before same-sex marriages can be performed legally because the case can (and will be) appealed, but the U.S. Supreme Court may not hear it and almost certainly will not overturn it.

The Ninth Circuit panel ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional on the grounds that it took away a right to be married that homosexuals had enjoyed after the California Supreme Court struck down a state ban in May 2008. (Prop. 8 passed in November 2008.)

The argument was drawn directly from a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in a Colorado case, Romer vs. Evans, that was brought after voters there passed an initiative that voided a series of local ordinances and state laws that protected homosexuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the crucial swing voter on the court, “wrote a strong opinion saying the Colorado law was unconstitutional because it singled out gays and lesbians for unfair treatment and took away their hard-won legal rights.”

It takes only four justices to vote to hear a case, but the outcome of this one is virtually foreordained. For one thing, the decision applies only to California, and the court prefers to take cases with nationwide application. Second, Kennedy undoubtedly will side with the four liberal justices and uphold the Ninth’s decision.

One way or another, same-sex marriage will soon be legal again in California.