On Feb. 7, a 2-1 decision by the Ninth United States Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling to appeal Proposition 8 on the basis that it is unconstitutional and attacks civil rights.
Stephen Reinhardt, one of the three judges on the panel, made the statement that, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.” While this is a victory for all those fighting for marriage equality, it is still only a small step towards the final goal.
Proposition 8 was passed in 2008, therein banning same-sex marriage in California by stating, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Supporters of the ban stressed that it would protect the structure of not only marriage but also society as a whole. Despite the claims of creating a societal imbalance, the court ruled that Proposition 8 was an attack on gay and lesbian civil rights and that its only true effect was the lessening of human rights and personal dignity.
After the announcement and the celebrations, sights quickly turned toward the next phase in this fight, the U.S. Supreme Court, though there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not it will address the overturning. There is an opportunity for Proposition 8 supporters to appeal to a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit Court and then if that appeal fails the Supreme Court could be the next way of attacking the overturning; there are many different possibilities as to what could be done. So while this is a boost for those working to achieve marriage equality on a national level, it is not enough. The foundation for this latest action is still just setting.
There is a lot more that must be overcome before marriage equality can be reached in this country. It is a sad day when one of the most advanced and powerful countries in the world falls behind on providing its citizens with a basic right – the right to marry the person they love. When it comes to gaining marriage equality this country is moving at an incredibly slow pace, state by state, while others are taking leaps and bounds ahead of us. So far the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina all have allowed same-sex marriages to take place within their borders. Yet while the U.S. is crawling along, it cannot be forgotten that with each of these small victories more and more people are able to make the extremely personal and private choice to get married without government interference.
While the overturning is just a stepping stone, there is hope that other states will feel the need to review their own polices, and with more and more joining in the fight that the Supreme Court will be forced to listen to those who believe in marriage equality. Hopefully then we will have national equality and will be able to fully back up the belief that we are the land of the free.