Equality California
Equality California Responds to the Supreme Court’s Decision to Review Proposition 8
December 7, 2012

CONTACT: Steve Roth, OutThink Partners
PHONE: 323-951-0059 EMAIL: steve@outthinkpartners.com

Equality California Responds to the Supreme Court’s Decision to Review Proposition 8

(San Francisco) Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will review the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, in which two federal courts have ruled that California’s Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment that stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in 2008, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court’s announcement means that the previous federal court rulings in the case — by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in 2010 and by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 — will be put on hold while the Supreme Court considers the case. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June 2013, but in the meantime, Proposition 8 will continue in force in California. As a result, same-sex couples will continue to be unable to marry in California while the case is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also today announced that, in a separate case, Uniter States v. Windsor, the Court will consider whether the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional. Federal courts in California, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut have recently found unconstitutional the portion of the federal DOMA that prevents married same-sex couples from having access to equal treatment under federal laws, including social security and tax laws. The Supreme Court’s consideration of DOMA will play an important role in shaping the federal relationship to the marriages of same-sex couples. Equality California previously has participated as a friend-of-the-court in federal DOMA litigation, and plans to do so again in United States v. Windsor.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to hear these cases shows the arc of history bending toward justice,” said John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California. “After the four victories for the freedom to marry in November’s election, what seemed impossible a generation ago is now a reflection of the heart of the American people. Our priority is restoring the freedom to marry in California, and as such, we are disappointed that loving couples must endure another round of court proceedings. But we know that our arguments will be granted a fair hearing, and that when future generations look back at our struggle, they will be glad of our perseverance and the faith in the justice that underpins our movement.”

Earlier this year, the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 that Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling marked the first time in the nation’s history that a federal appeals court struck down a statewide ban on marriage by same-sex couples. Previously in the case, in 2010, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker also invalidated Proposition 8, concluding that the measure violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. Proponents of Proposition 8 appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit, and have now sought and gained review in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, Equality California filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Ninth Circuit, arguing that Proposition 8 serves no legitimate interest of the state of California, but instead took away from California’s same-sex couples the freedom to marry that they previously enjoyed simply in order to classify same-sex couples as unequal under the law. Equality California’s brief explained that because Proposition 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,” Proposition 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 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.”

The Supreme Court will hold oral argument in March, and a ruling is expected by June.

EQCA will continue to pursue every path — legal, legislative and educational — to advance LGBT acceptance and to ensure that marriage equality is lasting and secure. Equality California intends to participate in the Proposition 8 case before the Supreme Court by submitting a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Court to rule that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. In 2012, the organization also has focused on a public education project called The Breakthrough Conversation designed to overcome psychological and emotional triggers in communications related to children that continue to impede LGBT 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 90 pieces of pro-equality legislation. EQCA continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org 

Cathleen Galgiani