February 7, 2012

Court of Appeals Issues a Narrow Ruling on Proposition 8 in California


San Francisco, CA – In Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the court issued a narrow 2-1 ruling, finding that Prop 8 cannot limit the name “marriage” to opposite-sex couples. The court did reach the broader question of whether there is a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The ruling is very narrow and limited only to California. In this respect, the ruling has to be a disappointment to same-sex marriage advocates.

Two of the judges found that Prop 8 violated the “rational basis” test of the Fourteenth Amendment, because all it did, according to their opinion, is limit the word “marriage” from being used by same-sex couples. Under California law, effective January 1, 2005, the state legislature passed the nation’s broadest “domestic partnership” law that essentially afforded all the rights, benefits, privileges, and obligations to same-sex couples as are afforded to opposite-sex couples in a marriage. The two judges wrote that all Prop 8 did was prevent same-sex couples from using the name “marriage” to describe the essentially identical relationship afforded them by existing California law. Since California is unique in having such a broad domestic partnership law and other laws extending rights to “gays and lesbians,” this ruling will not apply outside of California. The dissenting judge, N.R. Smith, would have upheld Prop 8 under the “rational basis” test.

Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief on behalf of Campaign for Children and Families and JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality).

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel, commented: “The ruling is like kissing your sister. On the one hand, it is not the broad ruling sought by same-sex marriage advocates but, on the other hand, it also does not allow the people of California to limit the name ‘marriage’ to opposite-sex couples. If there is any good news that comes out of this opinion, it is that it’s limited to California and does not apply to the other 49 states and territories. This ruling will not open the floodgates to same-sex marriage, as some advancing that cause had hoped. The court was clearly wrong in finding that there are no rational arguments to support limiting the name ‘marriage’ to opposite-sex couples. Surely California can limit the name ‘marriage’ to opposite-sex couples, even in the face of its broad domestic partnership law. Even though the ruling is narrow in scope, it is rulings like these that undermine the legitimacy of the judicial system.”





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