Equality California
Equality California Lauds Federal Appeals Court Decision Holding Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

February 7, 2012

CONTACT: Rebekah Orr, Equality California
PHONE: 415-498-0847 EMAIL: rebekah@eqca.org

Equality California Lauds Federal Appeals Court Decision Holding Proposition 8 Unconstitutional


San Francisco – The federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today 2-1 that Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008 that stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. It is the first time in the nation’s history that a federal appeals court has struck down a statewide ban on marriage for same-sex couples. In 2010, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker invalidated the measure, concluding that it violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. Proponents of Prop 8 appealed the decision in the Ninth Circuit, which resulted in today's decision.

In 2010, Equality California filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the appeal, arguing that Prop 8 is “a unique and unprecedented mandate of inequality that the federal Equal Protection Clause simply cannot tolerate.”  Equality California’s brief explained that because Prop 8 “deliberately mak[es] one group unequal to all others by carving out an exception to the equal protection of the state’s laws for that group,” Prop 8 is “fundamentally inconsistent with the command of the [Equal Protection Clause] that no state ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’”

The Ninth Circuit today agreed. The court’s opinion explained: “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. The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.”

“Today, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed what we know to be true—that Proposition 8 seriously infringes on the guarantee of equal protection and serves no legitimate state interest,” said David Codell, who together with Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC, provides pro bono representation of Equality California on marriage-related issues.

"For too long, thousands of California couples and their families have suffered harm by being denied a chance to make the same commitment in marriage that other loving couples treasure,” said Equality California Board President Clarissa Filgioun. “Today's ruling has moved us one step closer to righting this wrong and restoring the freedom to marry in California, providing same-sex couples and their families with the dignity and security that is the fundamental birthright of every American. On this historic day, we offer our sincere appreciation to the American Foundation for Equal Rights for their efforts to end this exclusion from marriage and the plaintiffs in the case who have put their families and personal lives in front of the public and so eloquently told the story of why marriage matters.”

EQCA will continue to pursue every path—legal, legislative and education—to advance LGBT acceptance and to ensure that marriage equality is lasting and secure. In 2012, the organization will focus, in particular, on a public education project called The Breakthrough Conversation designed to overcome the psychological and emotional triggers related to LGBT people and kids that continue to impede our efforts to achieve equality. 

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past 13 years, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has partnered with legislators and advocates to successfully sponsor more than 80 pieces of pro-equality legislation. EQCA continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org