Proposition 8: U.S. Supreme Court Will Rule on California's Gay Marriage Ban

Update: Reaction quotes after the jump.

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced today it will rule on the federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn California's gay marriage ban.

In August 2010, Proposition 8 was found unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. That ruling was appealed and later upheld by a federal appeals court in February 2012. Proposition 8 proponents then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As of now, gay and lesbian couples in California are still not allowed to legally marry until the Proposition 8 federal lawsuit is resolved.

Gay rights activists have been waiting for weeks for the U.S. Supreme Court to make a decision on whether or not it would hear the Proposition 8 appeal.

SCOTUSblog predicts arguments for the case will be heard in March 2013, with a ruling to come in June 2013. So within seven months or so, gay Californians will find out if legalized same-sex marriage will resume.

Here's the link for the U.S. Supreme Court's written announcement that was released today.

Also, here's the link for U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walkers's 2010 ruling.

When same-sex marriage was legal in California for a few months in 2008, some 18,000 gay and lesbian couples married.

The Proposition 8 lawsuit was organized and funded by the Los Angeles-based group American Foundation for Equal Rights.

In an email to supporters, AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer wrote:

"AFER brought this federal constitutional challenge to Prop. 8 because denying gay and lesbian Americans the fundamental right to marry is unfair, unlawful and contrary to basic American values. We have shown the nation that marriage is a fundamental freedom, and that all Americans should be afforded the same fundamental rights, regardless of how they are born and who they choose to love."

National Organization for Marriage Chairman John Eastman, a professor at Chapman University School of Law, who supports California's gay marriage ban, said in a statement:

"We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case. We believe it is a strong signal that the Court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8. That is the right outcome based on the law and based on the principle that voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect."

The U.S. Supreme Court also announced that it would hear challenges that seek to overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans gay marriage on the federal level.

Update: Politicians and various groups are now reacting to the Supreme Court's announcement.

In a press release, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was once the mayor of San Francisco, said:

"Today marks the beginning of the end for a California journey that started eight years ago when San Francisco issued same-sex marriage licenses. By agreeing to hear the Proposition 8 case, the U.S. Supreme Court could end, once and for all, marriage inequity in California.

"Forty-five years after the Supreme Court ruled that marriages between interracial couples were constitutional in Loving vs. Virginia, Justices can once again reaffirm the basic American principal of equality for all.

"The singling out a class of Californians for discrimination violates the basic principles of who we are as a nation. It is important at this moment in time to recognize that individuals can be mightier together than apart, that there is strength in our diversity, power when we unite around our shared values and success when we advance together.

"Today's announcement starts the clock towards the final decision for California. History will one day be divided into the time before marriage equality and the period that follows. And thankfully, we will be on the side of history worthy of being proud of."

Marriage Equality USA Legal Director John Lewis said in a statement:

"It's crystal clear that the United States Supreme Court should rule in favor of the freedom to marry. Our Constitution guarantees every American the fundamental human right to marry the person they love - regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other external characteristic. Proposition 8 targeted lesbian and gay people - and lesbian and gay people alone - to take away their freedom to marry and thus exclude them from the American dream. Proposition 8 cannot stand."

Courage Campaign Founder Rick Jacobs said in a statement:

"Last month, voters from Maine to Washington stood up for equality. Now it's time for the Supreme Court to catch up with the American public. Discrimination and hatred have no place in a country founded on the principles of liberty, justice and equality.

"Despite the efforts of a vocal minority, from politics to business to culture we are seeing a rapid and historic shift towards equality for all. Only a year ago, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed. Now, no one cares. Sooner than later, no one will care about loving gay and lesbian couples marrying any more than they care about their straight counterparts doing so.

"Each day of delay brings more suffering and hardship. We continue to have tremendous confidence in the [AFER) legal team led by Ted Olson and David Boies and will work tirelessly to make sure the court does not reverse years worth of momentum in the this country towards equality."

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in a press release:

"Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider marriage equality takes our nation one step closer to realizing the American ideal of equal protection under the law for all people.

"For justice to prevail, Proposition 8 must be invalidated so that gay and lesbian families are finally treated with equality and dignity."

Equality California Executive Director John O'Connor wrote in an email to supporters:

"While we would have preferred for the court to decline to hear the Prop. 8 case -- which would have immediately restored the freedom to marry in California -- we've prepared for this and we intend to file a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to find Prop. 8 unconstitutional.

"The arguments in favor of the freedom to marry are strong, and we are confident that they will receive a fair hearing from the court. And as we have seen in the last month, the nation has taken important steps forward toward affirming this basic human right -- we know that full equality is coming."

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who also co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said in a statement:

"Today is a milestone day for equal justice under the law and for millions of loving couples who want to make a lifelong commitment through marriage. The passage of Proposition 8 caused heartbreak for so many Americans, but today's announcement gives hope that we will see a landmark Supreme Court ruling for marriage this term. As the Court has ruled 14 times in the past, marriage is a fundamental right and I believe they will side with liberty, freedom and equality, moving us toward a more perfect union as they have done in the past.

"Proposition 8 has been already been declared unconstitutional in Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the Supreme Court has an opportunity to do the same and send a resounding message of hope to LGBT young people from coast to coast that they have the same dignity and same opportunities for the future as everyone else. I believe our cherished constitutional principles will win the day and that the court will uphold the fundamental right that all Americans can marry the one they love."

OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Allyson Robinson said in a press release:

"The bravery of these [Proposition 8] plaintiffs and the tenacity of the American Foundation for Equal Rights and its founder Chad Griffin have been key catalysts in the movement we have seen across this nation on marriage equality. Today, we honor their work, applaud their leadership, and vow to keep up the fight until every American enjoys the freedom to marry under the law."

U.S. Congressman Michael Honda of California, who is vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, said:

"My wedding day was among the happiest in my life, and these beloved memories are experiences I wish for all couples, regardless of sexual orientation. Recent wins at the ballot in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, and Washington state suggest that this sentiment is true throughout the country. I truly hope that the feeling is same in the hearts and minds of those nine justices. They have one of the defining issues of our time before them, and history will remember this."

Rev. Roland Stringfellow of the Bay Area, a member of the Breakthrough Coalition who plans to marry his partner Jerry Peterson, said: "As clergy members, both Jerry and I know that all of us, regardless who we love, are created in God's image. It is our hope that when the Supreme Court rules on the [Proposition 8] case next year, more of God's children will be able to make a lifelong commitment to the person they love, and to strengthen their families, through marriage.

"Should the Court affirm the unconstitutionality of denying couples like us the freedom to marry, this nation will have taken another great step forward in its journey towards recognizing that we are all created equal, with the same rights and responsibilities, and that those rights include marriage."

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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