Today a panel of a federal appeals court in California ruled that state’s Proposition 8, an amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in 2008 to outlaw gay marriage, is an unconstitutional violation of the right to equal protection under the law. The appeals panel agreed with the federal district court decision which found marriage to be a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution, and that there has to be a good reason to limit the exercise of that right to only certain people—in this case, one-man-and-one-woman couples.
Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.
All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of “marriage,” which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships. Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California…
The ruling was limited in scope and does not address whether “same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry.” The court found that since “California had already extended to committed same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of ‘marriage,’ and Proposition 8’s only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation, while leaving in place all of its incidents,” the court was able to rule on Proposition 8’s constitutionality without need to address the larger issue. But that is the grounds where the ultimate appeal will be argued. Supporters of this discriminatory and downright uncharitable proposition have the choice of appealing the case to either the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit or the United States Supreme Court; since that’s where we know the case is going to have to go eventually, I say let’s get on with it.
I’ll continue to argue that there is no good reason for gay people to be treated differently than straight people under the law when it comes to the exercise of the fundamental right to marry, or in fact the exercise of any fundamental civil right. Various religions may restrict their rites and sacraments among their members according to their beliefs, but civil law protects the rights of all Americans and there’s no room for exceptions that serve only to salve the theological objections of one religion or another. That’s what the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is all about: no restrictions on an individual’s religious practice, but no religion’s law takes precedence in civil life.
Many of the voices opposed to gay marriage claim to believe they are protecting “family values” or “conservative values.” Fine; I take them at their word. What I’m arguing in favor of are American values: equality; liberty; fairness; tolerance; justice. The argument was made most persuasively by the plaintiffs’ attorneys in this case, Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies. In August 2010, when the federal district court overturned Proposition 8, Olson made the case so clearly in a discussion with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Click here to look at the clip and read the transcript.
We do not put the Bill of Rights to a vote….We ask judges to make sure that when we vote for something we’re not depriving minorities of their constitutional rights.
…we have a 14th Amendment that guarantees equal rights to all citizens. It’s not judicial activism when judges do what the Constitution requires them to do, and they follow the precedent of previous decisions of the Supreme Court.
If 7 million Californians were to decide that we should have separate but equal schools, or that we would send some of our citizens to separate drinking fountains, or have them be in the back of the bus, that would be unconstitutional.
…we believe that a conservative value is stable relationships and a stable community and loving individuals coming together and forming a basis that is a building block of our society, which includes marriage…We also believe that it’s an important conservative value to sustain the rights of liberty of our citizens and to eliminate discrimination on invidious bases, whether it’s race, or sex or sexual orientation. It should be a liberal and a conservative value. It is a fundamental American value.
As I’ve argued before, the tide has turned. Homosexuals serve openly in the armed forces; more states have legalized marriage between two people of the same sex, and are giving up efforts to stop gay people from adopting children; and now, when One Million Moms (hardly…it’s the American Family Association) calls on J.C. Penney to drop Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman because she is openly gay, even Bill O’Reilly thinks it’s a McCarthy-esque “witch hunt”! Surely, the times they are a-changing.