San Francisco Same-sex marriage moved one step closer to the Supreme Court on Tuesday when a federal appeals court ruled California’s ban unconstitutional, saying it serves no purpose other than to “lessen the status and human dignity” of gays.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave gay marriage opponents time to appeal the 2-1 decision before ordering the state to allow same-sex weddings to resume.
“I’m ecstatic. I recognize that we have a ways to go yet. We may have one or two more legal steps,” said Jane Leyland, who was gathered with a small crowd outside the federal courthouse in downtown San Francisco, cheering as they learned of the ruling.
Leyland married her longtime partner, Terry Gilb, during the five-month window when same-sex marriage was legal in California.
“But when we first got together, I would have never dreamed in a million years that we would be allowed to be legally married, and here we are.”
The ban known as Proposition 8 was approved by voters in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. The court said it was unconstitutional because it singled out a minority group for disparate treatment for no compelling reason.
The justices concluded that the law had no purpose other than to deny gay couples marriage, since California already grants them all the rights and benefits of marriage if they register as domestic partners.
The lone dissenting judge insisted that the ban could help ensure that children are raised by married, opposite-sex parents.
The appeals court focused its decision exclusively on California’s ban, not the bigger debate, even though the court has jurisdiction in nine Western states.
Whether same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry “is an important and highly controversial question,” the court said. “We need not and do not answer the broader question in this case.”