Major Step Forward for Marriage Equality

A federal appeals court on Tuesday declared California's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but agreed to give sponsors of the bitterly contested, voter-approved law time to appeal the ruling before ordering the state to resume allowing gay couples to wed.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a lower court judge correctly interpretedthe U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedents when he declared in 2010 that Proposition 8 – a response to an earlier state court decision that legalized gay marriage – was a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

"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," states the opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, one of the court's most liberal judges.

It is likely that this case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. At the same time, other cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (denying Federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples) are also working their way toward consideration by the Supreme Court. The rulings emerging from these cases; the work of Overbrook grantees to advance marriage-equality through legislative action and public referenda and the ever growing support for marriage equality from Americans are providing enormous momentum to this movement.

Freedom to Marry and Lambda Legal both issued powerful statements describing the historic significance of this ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.