The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday announced it was upholding an earlier court ruling that California’s Proposition 8 voter-passed ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The decision sets the stage for another appeal, likely to the U.S. Supreme Court, and drew applause from gay-rights advocates buoyed by another clear legal victory. Openly gay Colorado Congressman Jared Polis declared the ruling a victory for American notions of justice and equality.
“No law that denies any American the right to marry the person that they love can be called constitutional, moral or just,” he said in a release. “Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit is a victory for the cause of justice and the ideal that we are all created equal and are all equal before the law. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will come down on the side of marriage equality and recognize the committed and loving relationships of millions of American couples.”
Polis was joined in celebrating the ruling by Colorado LGBT-rights group One Colorado.
“Today’s affirmative ruling…that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution is a victory for all loving and committed same-sex couples in California and across the nation,” Director Brad Clark wrote. “We applaud the 9th Circuit for standing on the right side of history and affirming that fundamental freedoms such as the freedom to marry should never be taken away by a popular vote.”
In its 3 to 1 ruling, the judges, whose 9th Circuit jurisdiction includes districts in nine western states and two territories, from Alaska to Arizona, did not lift the ban on gay marriage in California, which remains in effect pending further appeal.
In commenting on the ruling, however, Clark gave voice to wide-ranging sentiment that sees the series of legal victories arising from the Prop 8 battle as enormously influential in part simply because they’re based in California, home to Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the Castro District of San Francisco, engines of U.S. cultural change.
“Today’s ruling, if upheld, will restore the freedom to marry in California and add our nation’s [most populous] state as another engine of progress for the country.
News of the 9th Circuit decision comes as gay-marriage-related proposals are scheduled to appear on ballots in Maine, Minnesota and North Carolina, for example, and as related legislative proposals, such as Colorado Senate Bill 002, sponsored by Sen Pat Steadman this year, come up for debate.
Steadman, whose 2011 version of SB 002 was killed by one vote in committee last year, told the Colorado Independent he was anxiously awaiting news of the Prop 8 court ruling today but that he didn’t see how it could immediately affect his bill, apart from providing the kind of cultural momentum that can influence political positions.
One Colorado has been a major advocate for Steadman’s civil unions bills and sees the Colorado legislation to be hotly debated and closely watched this spring as another vital chapter in the increasingly fast-paced national story of marriage equality.
“As this case makes its way through the courts, we will continue to pursue critical legal protections for all families here in Colorado. Civil unions will ensure that committed couples are able to take care of the people they love—until all families are fully recognized in our state.”
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage equality nationwide, placed the 9th Circuit ruling in the context of the “surging nationwide majority” of Americans now in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
“This monumental appellate decision restores California to the growing list of states and countries that have ended exclusion from marriage, and will further accelerate the surging nationwide majority for marriage. As this and other important challenges to marriage discrimination move through the courts around the country, Freedom to Marry calls on all Americans to join us in ensuring that together we make as strong a case in the court of public opinion as our legal advocates are making in the courts of law. By growing the majority for marriage, winning more states, and tackling federal discrimination – Freedom to Marry’s ‘Roadmap to Victory’ – we maximize our chances of winning when one case or another finally reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.”