Entries from: Proposition 8

Federal court rules Prop 8 is unconstitutional

ca9LGBT advocates are celebrating a major federal court decision today affirming the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, which reversed marriage rights for same-sex couples in California.  The ruling of the 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholds a lower court’s decision that overturned Prop 8.

“Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the court said.

The court also dismissed claims that a new trial is warranted because Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the federal district court case, is gay and partnered and did not disclose those facts ahead of the trial.

The challenge to Proposition 8 was brought by lawyers Theodore Olson and David Boies under the sponsorship of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.  AFER will be holding a series of briefings about today’s decision.  More information about Internet broadcasts of those events can be found here.

All parties expect today’s ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Follow Prop 8 Trial Tracker for up-to-the-minute developments and analysis of today’s ruling.

Calif. high court rules anti-gay groups can defend Prop 8

prop-8The California Supreme Court has issued a decision advising a federal appeals court that groups opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples can defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which was struck down by a federal district court.

State officials declined to defend the voter-passed initiative that ended marriage equality in California, calling into question who has standing to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

If the Ninth Circuit accepts the state court’s clarification, it is expected to issue a ruling on the merits of the case and decide whether the lower court was correct in declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional.  Regardless of that decision, both sides are expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

BREAKING: California marriages on hold until appeal decided

gavelThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has just issued its own stay of a lower court ruling in the federal Proposition 8 case, meaning same-sex couples will not be able to legally marry in California until an appeal of the decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is decided.

The news is a major setback for couples who were preparing to wed this Wednesday after 5 p.m., when U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s temporary stay was to expire.

Still, today’s order also put the appeal on something of a fast track, with initial briefs due in mid-September.  Oral arguments are to be held the week of December 6 in San Francisco.  The court also said Prop 8 proponents must explain why they have standing to appeal Walker’s decision.

BREAKING: California gay couples can marry again

breakingChampagne corks are popping in the Golden State.  A federal judge in California has lifted a temporary stay of his landmark decision striking down Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that put a halt to weddings.

Same-sex couples across the state are expected to begin lining up for wedding licenses again nearly two years after voters narrowly approved Prop 8.  Still, it’s unclear how long couples will be able to take advantage of the restored right to marry.  Prop 8 proponents who are appealing the Prop 8 decision are also likely to appeal today’s ruling on resuming marriages to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

A new CNN poll released yesterday found that for the first time a majority of Americans believe same-sex couples should have the right to legally marry.  Fifty-two percent said it should be legal, while 46 percent opposed marriage equality.

Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight.com has been analyzing recent polling on the issue, and concludes that the rapid shift in opinion toward marriage equality likely means that ”’having the debate’ is helpful to the gay marriage cause.”

UPDATE:  Same-sex couples will have to wait until August 18 at 5pm to get married.  The judge’s order lifted the stay, but then he stayed today’s order until next Wednesday.  In the interim, Prop 8 proponents will appeal to the Ninth Circuit to issue its own stay.

Why Republicans aren’t talking about the Prop 8 decision

mcconnellIn 2004, Karl Rove masterminded a devious political strategy from his perch at the White House, building a massive get-out-the-vote scheme partly centered around opposition to marriage equality.  But even with a federal judge in California declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional this week, it appears unlikely his decision will be used to energize the GOP base in the 2010 mid-term elections.

President George W. Bush won his 2004 reelection bid with 50.7 percent of the vote to Sen. John Kerry’s 48.3 percent, but Ohio, with its 20 electoral votes, was the real prize. That November, Ohio and 10 other states had gay marriage ban questions on their statewide ballots, each passing easily.  The New York Times reported that the bans in Ohio and elsewhere acted like “magnets,” driving social conservatives to the polls and boosting Bush’s numbers:

In Ohio, for instance, political analysts credit the ballot measure with increasing turnout in Republican bastions in the south and west, while also pushing swing voters in the Appalachian region of the southeast toward Mr. Bush. The president’s extra-strong showing in those areas compensated for an extraordinarily large Democratic turnout in Cleveland and in Columbus, propelling him to a 136,000-vote victory.

“I’d be naïve if I didn’t say it helped,” said Robert T. Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. “And it helped most in what we refer to as the Bible Belt area of southeastern and southwestern Ohio, where we had the largest percentage increase in support for the president.”

What a difference six years makes.

This year Republicans are hoping to peel off some of the same moderate and independent voters who helped elect President Barack Obama in 2008.  But the reaction in GOP circles to Wednesday’s landmark ruling in California suggests Rove and his colleagues may view an anti-gay strategy as less appropriate today.

Part of the reason may be a remarkable shift in the electorate on the question of LGBT rights over  the last six years.  Today, nationwide support for marriage equality looks much different than it did in 2004.  A CBS News poll conducted in March of that year found just 22% of Americans favored legal marriage for gays and lesbians.  But an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in February of 2010 found nearly half (47%) supporting marriage rights for same-sex couples–a 25 percentage point jump.

Republicans also understand that in an economy that has yet to create many new jobs since the near-collapse of the financial system, voters may not be in a mood to listen to messages about same-sex marriage.  An article in Politico today explores the GOP’s apparent reluctance to pounce on Judge Vaughn Walker’s Proposition 8 decision:

“It raises an issue (Republicans would) rather not have to deal with … (it’s) hard to walk to the line of opposing same sex-marriage and displaying enough tolerance to keep independents and Democrats comfortable enough to vote for you.”

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, put it simply: “A modern party does not want a campaign that’s built around a crusade on gay rights. … it won’t work, for one thing, and for another, it’s so controversial that it would obscure the nonpartisan appeal of the economic issue.”

He added, “I don’t think that moderates and independents get very excited about this.”