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Court strikes down 'Proposition 8' ban on gay marriage

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-02-07

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down Proposition 8, a 2008 California law banning same-sex couples from marrying, saying it violated the constitutional principles of due process and equal protection under the law.

AFP - A US federal appeals court struck down a California law Tuesday that strips gays and lesbians of the right to marry, in the latest round in the battle over same-sex marriage.

The Ninth Circuit Court upheld a lower court judge's ruling that an amendment to the California state constitution banning same-sex marriage violated principles of due process and equal protection under the law.

Gay marriage was briefly authorized in California in 2008, but later banned by a referendum on what was known as Proposition 8, which rewrote the state's constitution to restrict marriage to unions between a man and a woman.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by 2-1 that a lower court had properly declared the ban a violation of the US Constitution.

The judges wrote that ban had violated equality laws "to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed, without a legitimate reason for doing so."

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California," the judges wrote. "The constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort."

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Randy Smith argued that the government could have a legitimate interest in preventing same-sex couples from marrying.

The ruling was relatively narrow in scope and did not address whether gays and lesbians have a broader constitutional right to marry.

California's Attorney General Kamala Harris applauded the appeals court ruling, calling it "a victory for fairness, a victory for equality and a victory for justice."

However, with the issue now likely to proceed to the Supreme Court the judges did not rule on whether the ban should be lifted immediately as gay rights groups have requested.

A spokesman for one of the nation's leading gay rights organization welcomed the decision saying same-sex couples should be "able to share in the celebration and responsibilities of marriage."

"People from every background and every circumstance get this; they understand because being able to marry the one you love and care for your family are shared values that strike at the very core of who we are as a people," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"Denying loving couples and their families something so fundamental is to deny our common humanity."

All three judges agreed that the federal judge who previously found the voter-approved ban unconstitutional had no obligation to disclose that he was in a long-term gay relationship or recuse himself from the case.

Gay marriage is legal in six states so far -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York as well as in the capital Washington.

Date created : 2012-02-07

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