Marriage in California
During the past 10 years, EQCA has worked with the legislature and the courts to ensure that all loving and committed couples have the right to marry in California. Our work will continue until we win marriage back.
In 2005, the California Legislature made history as the first in the nation to pass a bill that would have given same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The Legislature passed an identical bill again in 2007, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both measures.
Couples Marry in California
On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court upheld that denying same-sex couples the fundamental freedom to marry violates the California Constitution’s equal protection clause. EQCA was one of the plaintiffs in that landmark case. Read more>
Same-sex couples began to legally wed in California on June 16, 2008. Between June 16 and November 4, 2008, approximately 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California. Those marriages continue to be valid.
Proposition 8 passed by a slim majority, eliminating the right of other same-sex couples to marry. EQCA raised over 14 million dollars for the campaign against Prop 8 — $11 million more than any other organization. EQCA Prop 8 Inventory, Recommendations for Future >
State Legislature Goes On Record to Oppose Prop 8
Both the California Senate and Assembly passed resolutions opposing Prop 8 as an illegal and unprecedented revision to the state Constitution. According to the resolutions, Prop 8 illegally usurps the legislature’s role to vote on all fundamental revisions to the Constitution. By taking away the fundamental freedom to marry from one particular group, Prop 8 alters the very intent of the Constitution, which is to treat all people equally under the law.
The resolutions, Senate Resolution 7 (Leno) and House Resolution 5 (Ammiano), were sponsored by Equality California.
EQCA hosted a lobby day in 2008 where over 700 activists came from across the state to lobby their legislators to support the resolutions. The lobbying efforts resulted in 57 co-authors overall in both houses — more than any other EQCA-sponsored legislation.
California Supreme Court Review of Prop 8
On March 5, 2009, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Prop 8 legal challenge. The lawsuit challenging the initiative was filed on behalf of EQCA and same-sex couples immediately following the election. The case was led by EQCA’s attorneys; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; the American Civil Liberties Union; Lambda Legal; the Law Office of David C. Codell; Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Read more>
We argued that Proposition 8 was invalid because the California Constitution does not permit the fundamental constitutional rights of a minority to be stripped away by a simple majority vote. The California Constitution establishes two ways that it can be altered. A substantial change to the principles or basic structure of the Constitution, called a "revision," requires the involvement of the legislature and a more deliberative process. A less substantial change, called an "amendment," can be enacted by a simple majority vote of the people.
The case argued that the California Supreme Court should strike down Proposition 8 because it is, in fact, a revision. The principle of equal protection, which prevents the majority from oppressing minority groups, is central to our Constitution and our democratic system of government. Proposition 8 limits that fundamental principle of equality for LGBT Californians and undermines the very purpose of equal protection for everybody.
Five additional petitions challenging Prop 8 were filed by a number of cities and counties, led by the City and County of San Francisco; a private attorney in Los Angeles representing two couples; a coalition of civil rights groups including the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, California State Conference of the NAACP, Equal Justice Society, MALDEF and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.; prominent women’s groups; and a coalition of religious groups led by the California Council of Churches. (The Court deferred consideration of the petitions submitted by the civil rights groups, women’s groups and religious groups, and invited those groups to submit amicus briefs instead.)
On May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was valid. However, the Court upheld the marriages of those same-sex couples who wed before Prop 8's passage.
Marriages from Out of State Recognized
On January 1, 2010 EQCA-sponsored legislation went into effect authored, authored by Senator Mark Leno clarifying that same-sex couples married in any state or nation anytime before the passage of Proposition 8 must be recognized as married spouses in California, regardless of whether they married in California or in another state or nation. In addition, the new statute also confirms that same-sex couples married outside of California after November 5, 2008, must be given all of the rights, protections and responsibilities of married spouses under California law, with the sole exception of the designation of "marriage."
Federal Court Case Challenge to Prop 8
Perry v. Schwarzenegger is a U.S. District court case challenging the validity of Prop 8. Unlike the California State Supreme Court challenge, the petitioners are challenging the merits of Prop 8 under federal law. Equality California filed a friend-of the-court brief outlining our position.
Do you think it should be unconstitutional to allow the majority to vote on the rights of a minority? Ask President Obama to file a brief in support of this case at www.eqca.org/enough.