In 2000, California voters passed Prop. 22, which stated that California
would only recognize opposite-sex marriages. In May, 2008, the California
Supreme Court invalidated Prop. 22 as being in conflict with the California
Constitution. In response, in November, 2008, California voters enacted
Prop. 8, which amended the California Constitution to add that "only
marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
In May, 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional Amendment
essentially banning same-sex marriages.
Fast forward to today. In response to the May, 2009 ruling, same-sex marriage
proponents filed a lawsuit in Federal Court, alleging that Prop. 8 violated
the federal civil rights of two same-sex couples that wanted to get "married".
That case went to trial, and as you have undoubtedly heard, the Plaintiffs
(proponents of same-sex marriage) won in a landslide. After hearing testimony
from numerous witnesses, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop. 8 as being
in conflict with the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United
States Constitution (see the next article for a very brief explanation
of these clauses).
The decision came as a shock to noone, based on the evidence presented
at trial. The Plaintiffs called reliable and persuasive witnesses (17
of them) who testified on all the benefits and the lack of societal detriment
of same-sex marriages. On the other hand, the Defendants called unreliable
and unpersuasive witnesses (and only 2 of them), whose testimony actually
ended up helping the Plaintiffs. Ultimately, the Judge ruled that Prop.
8 could not stand up to strict scrutiny (or even the lesser standard of"rationally
related") and struck down the Constitutional amendment.
So where are we now? As it stands today, same-sex marriages will be valid
and recognized in California, pending any stays put into effect during
the appellate process. Opponents of same-sex marriage will appeal to the
9th Circuit Court of Appeals, probably based on a "federalism"
or 10th Amendment argument, i.e., the federal government cannot and should
not decide an issue that is regarded as being within the exclusive province
of the state in essence meaning, "this is a state issue, not a federal
issue, and the state voters have spoken". Whichever side loses in
the 9th Circuit Court will undoubtedly appeal to the United States Supreme
Court, the ultimate authority, and absent an amendment to the United States
Constitution, we should eventually have a final decision on the matter,
one way or another.