Appeals court strikes down California’s Prop 8

Prop 8 opponents cheer the ruling outside the 9th Circuit.
Prop 8 opponents cheer the ruling outside the 9th Circuit.
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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a major legal victory for marriage equality this afternoon.

A federal appeals court has declared California’s voter-approved Proposition 8 unconstitutional, NBC News is reporting.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday that a lower court judge interpreted the U.S. Constitution correctly in 2010 when he declared the ban, known as Proposition 8, to be a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

The ban passed with 52 percent of the vote in 2008 and outlawed same-sex unions just five months after they became legal in the state. Lawyers for Proposition 8 sponsors and for two couples who sued to overturn the ban have said they would appeal to the Supreme Court if they did not receive a favorable ruling.

The 9th Circuit’s website has crashed – there’s apparently quite a bit of interest in the ruling – but here’s a Scribd copy of the ruling; here’s one on DocumentCloud; and the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles posted a pdf version.

We’ll update this post with additional details soon, but in the meantime, read along with us in the comments section.

Update: From Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s ruling: “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

Second Update: Pending further appeals, a stay is in place in California, so the ruling does not allow same-sex marriages to resume in the state.

Third Update: The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney believes today’s ruling “all but ensur[es]  that the case will proceed to the United States Supreme Court.” Indeed, the 9th Circuit’s majority seemed to be operating with that assumption in mind, making several references to Romer v. Evans.

Civil Rights and California

Appeals court strikes down California's Prop 8