Proposition 8 Thrown Out by Californian Court

On 4 August 2010, the Californian District Court, in the case of Perry, Stier, Katami and Zarrillo v. Schwarzenegger, Brown, Horton, Scott, O’Connell and Logan, (2010) C09-2292 VRW, held that Proposition 8, an amendment to the California State Constitution providing that marriage is valid only between heterosexual persons, was unconstitutional.

Proposition 8 is a 2008 ballot measure which amended the California State Constitution to include the phrase "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California". The District Court held that Proposition 8 violated the right to due process and the right to equal protection of the law guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This case was brought against the Governor and Attorney General of California on behalf of a lesbian and a gay couple who were refused marriage licences on the basis of their sex and their sexual orientation under Proposition 8.

In handing down the judgment, Judge Walker said:

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

The judgment set a historic precedent in providing a detailed factual record of marriage and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, based on testimony at trial by expert witnesses including professors, psychiatrists, historians and city officials. A number of issues were raised, including the history of marriage as distinct from the influence of religion on the institution, the history of discrimination faced by the lesbian and gay community, the “structural stigma” that can arise from discriminatory laws and policies, the similar psychological effects on children of same-sex and opposite-sex parenting and the beneficial economic effects of legalising same-sex marriage.

The defendants have announced their intention to appeal and the case may soon appear before the US Supreme Court.

To read the case summary, click here.

To read the full judgment, click here.