August 3, 2012
By Matt Baume
This Saturday marks the two year anniversary of AFER’s first major legal victory. On August 4, 2010, the Federal District Court in California ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
A lot has happened since then. And now that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that 2010 ruling, the case is headed to the US Supreme Court.
That makes it a good time to look back at that early victory, and why the ruling sets such an important precedent. The court’s decision laid a powerful foundation for the freedom to marry that stands throughout the federal court system.
The most crucial line comes in the conclusion of the decision. “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”
Over the course of the two week trial, the Prop 8 proponents tried and failed to show how the freedom to marry could possibly be harmful.
The court wrote, “In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples.”
Obviously, that belief is insufficient grounds for a discriminatory law. As the court recognized, “fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” The decision goes on, “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians.”
Those quotes are conclusions of law that are based on conclusions of fact. They give our case a position of tremendous strength as we approach the Supreme Court. In its decision, the court recognizes our relationships for what they truly are.
“Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as ‘the right to same-sex marriage’ would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.”
At the end of the day, this case isn’t just about marriage. It’s about defending freedom. Here’s AFER’s Founder Chad Griffin speaking on the day of decision:
“Today the federal court gave hope to millions of Americans throughout this country who face the sting of discrimination. Today our system of justice has said to the nation that all Americans are entitled to the same freedoms.”
At the American Foundation for Equal Rights, I’m Matt Baume. Thanks for watching.