Equal Rights in California

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

Equal Rights in California


Byline: The Register-Guard

California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage deserves to be swept into the dust bin of history, as do similar laws in Oregon and elsewhere across the nation. That came a step closer to happening Tuesday when a federal appeals court panel ruled California's ban violated the Constitution.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower-court judge correctly interpreted the Constitution and Supreme Court precedents when he declared in 2010 that California's Proposition 8 - a response to an earlier state court decision that legalized gay marriage - violates civil rights of gays and lesbians.

The ruling is a welcome step toward equality for same-sex couples. It cut to the heart of the issue, saying Proposition 8, approved by California voters in 2008, violated the equal protection rights of same-sex couples. The proposition placed a specific prohibition in the state's constitution against marriage between two people of the same sex.

But the decision is likely to be an incremental step toward the inevitable dismantling of gay marriage bans and other laws that place gays and lesbians at a legal disadvantage. That's because the decision was far less broad than the ruling it upheld by Judge Vaughn Walker, who had been the chief judge of the Federal District Court of the Northern District of California but has since retired.

The two-judge majority emphasized it was not deciding whether there was a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, but was instead ruling on the treatment of same-sex couples under California law. As a result, the decision applies only to California, even though the court has jurisdiction in nine western states, including Oregon. That's because California is the only one of those states where the ability of gays to marry was granted and then rescinded. …

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