Yesterday morning, California opponents of Proposition 8 celebrated a landmark decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
Several members of the community, including a representative from Congresswoman Lois Capps’ office, spoke during an open forum and celebration yesterday afternoon at Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara downtown. The case — Perry v. Brown — is currently frozen as the ruling is expected to be appealed by supporters of Proposition 8, either in an en banc review by the full 11-member Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or by the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to Jason Hopkins, a Ph.D. candidate in UCSB’s sociology department, Proposition 8’s proponents are unlikely to seek an en banc review, as the three-judge panel’s decision was quite decisive. Instead, Hopkins said, it will likely pass to the U.S. Supreme Court if four of the nine justices decide to hear the appeal.
Hopkins said the court’s ruling was extremely heartening for three reasons: it was narrowly-worded, it recognized the symbolic nature of marriage as opposed to equality under the law and it recognized the discriminatory manner of the original proposition.
Sharon Siegel, a congressional staff member for Capps, was present to share a statement from the congresswoman to the audience praising the court’s judgment.
“Today’s ruling is a historic milestone in achieving full equality for all Americans, further confirming what so many Americans have known for some time now: That marriage is a fundamental right that should not be denied to gay and lesbian couples,” Siegel said. “Marriage equality is a necessary step to ensure the civil rights of lesbian and gay Americans and their full participation in our society. This decision sends a clear message to all LGBT Americans, and an especially positive one to LGBT youth: You are valued and worthy, your rights are equal to others and not less and one day you too may grow up and marry your beloved. This is a good day for California and a wonderful day for equality.”
Executive Director of the Pacific Pride Foundation David Selberg said the court’s decision exhibited a strong commitment to defending the constitutional rights of minority groups, including the gay rights movement.
“Throughout our history, whether it was the civil rights movement, women’s equality movement, interracial marriage — all the cutting-edge movements we have all been a part of in this country — it is the courts that decide on our behalf. The marginalized, the repressed — the courts stand by us. We get nervous, we get scared; are they going to be behind us? And they did today. And it was so wonderful, at 10 a.m., when we all got word of this — they stood by us.”
The UCSB LGBT community also celebrated the ruling. Fourth-year psychology major and former Vice-Chair of the Queer Student Union Maha Syed said she welcomes the ruling but still worries about the future.
“I’m really excited about [the decision] and I definitely think it is a big step … but I am also a little wary because I know they can still appeal that, so we still have a ways to go,” Syed said. “I definitely think the decision will stand but it will probably be another year or two before it actually gets to be enacted. I think it is just really important to stay informed and not just think, ‘Oh, well, we won this ruling and now everything is fine.’”
In the panel’s opinion on the case, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the proposition’s only achievement would be to deny a portion of American citizens the same rights constitutionally granted to them all.
“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay and lesbians in California and to officially re-classify their relationships and families as inferior than to those of opposite-sex couples,” Reinhardt wrote in the decision. “The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.”