(02-07) 10:13 PST SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional today, saying a state can’t revoke gay rights solely because a majority of its voters disapprove of homosexuality.
In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Proposition 8’s limitations on access to marriage took rights away from a vulnerable minority without benefiting parents, children or the marital institution.
“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,” said Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the majority opinion.
“The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.”
Prop. 8, passed in November 2008, declared marriage to be the union of a man and a woman. It repealed a May 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that had legalized same-sex marriage in California.
The ban remains in effect while the case proceeds toward the U.S. Supreme Court.
In today’s ruling, the court took a narrower approach than that taken by then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the nation’s first federal court trial on same-sex marriage.
Walker ruled in August 2010 that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry their chosen partner - a ruling that, if upheld on appeal, would apply nationwide.
Today’s ruling was tied to the history of Prop. 8 and, if upheld, would nevertheless apply only to California.