News (USA)

Supreme Court urged to reject Prop 8 appeal, allow marriage equality to resume in California

The plaintiffs challenging California’s Proposition 8 on Friday filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the landmark federal appeals court ruling in Perry v. Brown (now Hollingsworth v. Perry) that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

Proposition 8 was the 2008 voter-approved ballot measure that eliminated marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in Californians.

The plaintiffs’ brief calls marriage equality “the defining civil rights issue of our time.”

On Feb. 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that Proposition 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The proponents of Proposition 8 recently asked the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s judgment. Plaintiffs’ brief filed today responds to Proponents’ request.

“[T]he Ninth Circuit found that eliminating the ability of gay and lesbian couples to have their relationships designated as marriages—and relegating them to separate and unequal domestic partnerships—achieves nothing except the marginalization of gay and lesbian individuals and their relationships, and therefore cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny,” said Plaintiffs’ attorneys, led by co-counsel Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, in today’s brief.

“That holding is fully consistent with this Court’s jurisprudence, which has long held that marginalizing a group of citizens for its own sake violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The plaintiffs’ brief underscores the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 and the harm that it imposes on gay and lesbian couples:

“Proposition 8 is antithetical to the ‘principles of equality’ on which this ‘Nation … prides itself.’ It creates a permanent ‘underclass’ of hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Californians, who are denied the right to marry available to all other Californians simply because a majority of voters deems gay and lesbian relationships inferior[.] … With the full authority of the State behind it, Proposition 8 sends a clear and powerful message to gay men and lesbians: Your relationships are not recognized on the same footing or entitled to the same dignity or respect as those of heterosexuals.”

Because the Ninth Circuit’s decision “reflects a correct and straightforward application of settled Supreme Court precedent,” the plaintiffs in the case have urged the Supreme Court to deny review.

“Two federal courts and a majority of Americans recognize that laws like Proposition 8 are unfair, unlawful, and contrary to basic American values,” said Adam Umhoefer, Executive Director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sole sponsor of the federal court challenge of Proposition 8.

“It is time, indeed past time, that our Nation live up to its founding promise of liberty and equality for all by ensuring that gay and lesbian couples are afforded the same fundamental freedom to marry guaranteed to every American by our Constitution, said Umhoefer.

On July 30, the proponents of Proposition 8 asked the Supreme Court to review the February 2012 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the historic August 2010 judgment of the Federal District Court that struck down Proposition 8.

In that decision, the Ninth Circuit held:

“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. The Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of this sort.’”

On June 5, 2012, the full Ninth Circuit denied Proponents’ request for an eleven-judge panel to rehear the case, known as rehearing en banc.

Proponents’ request for Supreme Court review, known as a petition for a writ of certiorari, is only granted upon an affirmative vote of four Justices. The Court will consider Proponents’ petition for certiorari and Plaintiffs’ response at a private conference in late September or early October.

Additonal reading:

For LGBTQ Nation’s complete, on-going coverage of Proposition 8, including the 2010 trial coverage, click here.

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