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Prop 8: California gay marriage ban struck down as unconstitutional

A split ruling by a 9th-circuit panel in California clears the way for a ban on gay marriage to be argued before the US Supreme Court.

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Opponents of Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban, celebrate outside of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after the law was ruled unconstitutional. (Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court in California today has struck down the state's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, allowing proponents of the ban to take their case to the Supreme Court, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel upheld the prior ruling of US District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who after trial testimony spanning the nature of marriage and sexual orientation had found in 2010 that the so-called Proposition 8 was in violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to The Times.

Here's the full opinion:

Prop 8 Opinion

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Like similar ballot measures recently adopted in other US states, Proposition 8 defined marriage as occurring strictly between one man and one woman.

According to The Times, ProjectMarriage, the organization supporting Proposition 8, may seek a ruling by a larger panel of the 9th circuit or it may go directly to the US Supreme Court, which is seen as divided on the issue, with Justice Anthony Kennedy holing the deciding vote.

In a separate decision issued today, the appeals court refused to strike down Judge Walker’s ruling on the grounds that he failed to disclose that he is homosexual, according to The Times, which noted that Judge Walker has not said whether he and his partner of 10 years wish to marry.

Proposition 8 ended a six-month period during which gays could marry in California after the state’s Supreme Court struck down a gay marriage ban. The state supreme court upheld Prop 8 as a valid constitutional amendment that year.

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Writing for the majority, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said that Proposition 8 had advanced no public interest and only served to deny basic rights to a category of members of the public, meaning that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

“All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships,” Judge Reinhardt wrote.

“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.’”

And here's a Storify of responses to the ruling:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120207/prop-8-california-gay-marriage-ban-struck-down-u