Proposition 8, which sought to maintain the traditional definition of marriage in California, was struck down by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco Tuesday, with the measure being deemed unconstitutional. Pro-family groups are likely to appeal the court's ruling.
The case will most likely head to the U.S. Supreme Court provided the court decides to hear it. No same-sex marriages are likely to be solemnized before the case is resolved.
The three-member panel in the 9th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
"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 decided.
Denouncing the ruling, Brian Raum, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, said the court undercut the democratic process "by taking the power to preserve marriage out of the hands of the people."
"No court should presume to redefine marriage," he stated. "Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of changing the definition of marriage. Sixty-three million Americans in 31 state elections have voted on marriage, and 63 percent voted to preserve marriage as the timeless, universal, unique union between husband and wife."
Brian Brown, President of National Organization for Marriage, sent an email to supporters following the decision asking for funds to help support Prop 8 in the looming Supreme Court battle.
"A Supreme Court victory would preserve the marriage laws of 44 states, denying same-sex marriage radicals in their campaign to force gay marriage on the entire nation in one fell swoop," Brown said. "But if we lose at the Supreme Court, marriage will be jeopardized not just in California, but in all 50 states.
"This is it. This is the whole ball game. If we lose here, the laws in 44 states defending marriage will crumble and we CANNOT let that happen!"
Brown told supporters that NOM would need "hundreds of thousands of dollars" more to defeat pro-gay supporters that will use "all of the resources they can bring to bear from the Hollywood elites and the gay billionaires."
The California Supreme Court eliminated a ban on same-sex marriage in May 2008. Prop. 8 was then instated as a ballot initiative during the 2008 state elections. The measure sought to maintain the definition of marriage as a union between "a man and a woman." More than 52 percent of Californians voted in favor of the measure.
On Aug. 4, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Prop. 8 was unconstitutional as it violated Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The case then moved to the 9th Circuit panel of three judges, which announced its agreement with Walker's ruling on Tuesday.
Before Prop. 8 was passed, 18,000 same-sex couples were allowed to marry in the six-month window of its legality. Any marriage or civil union solemnized before the amendment, which took effect on Nov. 7, 2008, was and will continue to be recognized by the state.
Supporters of Prop. 8 will likely now appeal the ruling. The primary sponsor of the measure, ProtectMarriage, can appeal to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit or, like many experts predict, go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The panel also said it would refuse to consider any bias in Walker's earlier decision because he is a gay man in a committed relationship. Walker admitted he was in a same-sex relationship after making the initial ruling.
Experts believe the U.S. Supreme Court is likely split on the issue of same-sex marriage and Prop 8. The panel's ruling on Tuesday will only apply to California, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling may have a broader scope.