On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, upholding a lower court's ruling on the voter-approved measure that outlawed same-sex marriage. The court also rejected the argument that U. S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself from the case because he is gay and has a longtime partner. The court ruled that the amendment violated the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. “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,” wrote Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the opinion.
The Los Angeles Times reported before the ruling that the losing party can appeal the ruling to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit, which would delay U.S. Supreme Court review for many months or longer, or go directly to the high court. The sponsors of Proposition 8, ProtectMarriage, have said they were eager to get to the high court as soon as possible. "The sub-theme here is that this is the 9th Circuit, which has recently been overturned more often than not by the more conservative U.S. Supreme Court, something that Prop. 8 supporters no doubt will mention if they don't get the ruling they want from San Francisco," CBS News senior legal analyst Andrew Cohen said.
The Times also notes that the court's decision would have no immediate impact on other states within the 9th Circuit, lawyers said Monday. Even if Proposition 8 is struck down and the stay lifted, marriage bans in other states would probably continue until challenged or until state officials refused to recognize them.