California Rules Proposition 8 is Unconstitutional
In November 2008, Proposition 8 was passed in California outlawing same-sex marriage. After the passing of Proposition 8, two courageous same-sex couples, along with the City of San Francisco, took their case to Federal Court arguing that the terms of Proposition 8 deprive gays and lesbians of due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
On August 4th, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the Equal Protection Clause renders Proposition 8 unconstitutional under any standard of review. Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect. All classifications based on sexual orientation appear suspect, as the evidence shows that California would rarely, if ever, have a reason to categorize individuals based on their sexual orientation. Here, however, strict scrutiny is unnecessary. Proposition 8 fails to survive even rational basis review. Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, as excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
Last month, a ruling from the Federal District Court in Massachusetts found that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provides that marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman for all federal law purposes, also does not pass the rational basis test.
These rulings set the stage for the issue of same-sex marriage to be debated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The losing side in both of these cases has promised an appeal. Appellate decisions in the coming months will continue to shape the legal landscape of same-sex marriage as it relates to Constitutional protections afforded under the 14th Amendment.
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