By Gel Santos Relos
"No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This is the Equal Protection Clause stipulated in Section 1 of 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It secures the promise of the United States' commitment to the declaration that "all men are created equal". Did California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage violate this?
A Federal Appeals Court in California just struck down Proposition 8 --the highly contested ban on same sex marriages that California voters passed with a 52% majority vote in 2008. In a 2 to 1 decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the decision of Lower Court Federal Judge Vaugn Walker in 2010, which declared that such ban is a violation of the civil rights of Gays and Lesbians.
Despite this ruling, however, gay couples in California cannot be issued marriage licenses yet because the Ninth Circuit Court put a stay on the Walker ruling, and the stay remains while appeals may still be heard following due process.
The decision penned by Judge Reinhardt stated:
"Prior to November 4, 2008, the California Constitution guaranteed the right to marry to opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples alike. On that day, the people of California adopted Proposition 8, which amended the State Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. We consider whether that amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does.
Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason for Proposition 8 to have been enacted...
[Proposition 8] stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right--- the right to obtain and use the designation of "marriage" to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less.
Proposition 8, therefore, could not have enacted to advance California's interest in childrearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples, nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents' rights to control their children's rights to control their children's education...
All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of "marriage", whuch symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships.
Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite sex couples. The Constitution does not allow for "laws of this sort".. Read entire decision.
Conservative and religious groups backing Proposition 8 said they plan to appeal the decision to a larger Ninth Circuit panel, and may elevate the debate all the way up to the US Supreme Court.
They stand by their conviction that "marriage is the union between one man and one woman".
They argue that gay marriage is against the Law of God as stipulated in the bible and is against the law of nature. They stress that allowing gays and lesbians to get married is condoning sin and immorality that will hasten the degeneration of the moral fibers of society.
If and when the decision to allow same-sex marriage is finalized, California joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire and Washington DC that have already legalized gay marriage. Will other states follow?
Do you agree with the Court's decision?