A federal appeals court in San Francisco announced on Tuesday that it denied a request to reconsider a February ruling that struck down California’s voter-approved ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
Proposition 8 supporters requested that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allow an 11-judge panel to review a decision made by a three-judge panel that found the Golden State’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians unconstitutional.
Now retired U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker in Aug. 2010 found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Supporters of the voter-approved ban on marriage for gays and lesbians appealed the decision.
“This is a monumental day and our case has now entered its final chapter,” said Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights during a conference call with reporters. “We began the final chapter of the Proposition 8 case today and the end is now in sight.”
Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson agreed.
“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit to deny a rehearing of Perry vs. Brown brings committed same-sex couples in California one step closer to being able to marry,” he said. “It’s now been three-and-a-half years since the freedom to marry was stripped from loving and committed same-sex couples. It is long past time for this ‘gay exception’ to marriage in California to come to an end.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the Ninth Court’s decision as another step towards bringing Prop 8 to “its rightful place in the dustbin of history.”
“By declining to rehear this case, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed a victory for civil rights for the LGBT community and for all Californians,” she added.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision comes less than a week after three judges with the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. President Barack Obama last month announced his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples during a White House interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.
Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain referenced Obama’s comments that marriage remains in the purview of the states in his dissenting opinion onto which Judges Jay Bybee and Carlos Bea signed. He further noted the president’s assertion during the interview that he would like to see the debate over marriage rights for same-sex couples “continue in a respectful way.”
“Today our court has silenced any such respectful conversation,” wrote O’Scannlain.
Prop 8 supporters announced moments after the Ninth Circuit announced its decision that they will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Perry v. Brown.
“Marriage is a universal good that has been honored by diverse cultures and faiths for the entire history of Western Civilization,” said Brian Raum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “The Protectmarriage.com legal team looks forward to standing before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the people’s right to preserve the fundamental building block of civilization, especially since the dissent accompanying today’s decision strongly supports our arguments. The democratic process and the most important human institution—marriage—shouldn’t be overthrown based on the demands of Hollywood activists.”
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown echoed Raum.
“We are calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve our democratic rights and overturn this action of judicial arrogance,” he said.
Observers note that the case would go before the justices sometime next year if they agree to hear it.
“The Ninth Circuit has wisely declined to review the Prop 8 case,” West Hollywood (Calif.) Mayor John Duran told the Blade. “If the U.S. Supreme Court also denies review, California will return to a freedom to marry.”
Meanwhile, Maryland voters face a likely referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law in November. A proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota would ban nuptials for gays and lesbians. Maine voters will consider a ballot measure in November that would allow same-sex couples to tie the knot in their state.
“While the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately decide the outcome of this case, we must all continue to walk that path–in this case and other courtrooms, in legislatures, at ballot boxes and at kitchen table–until all LGBT people are fully and equally part of the American community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.