The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) , this morning, regarding the validity of Proposition 8. The outcome is that same-sex marriage is once again legal in California. The Supreme Court did not rule on a specific right to same-sex marriage, but rather it stated that neither it nor the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which includes California) had the power to hear the case. Hollingsworth is largely a procedural case, and it requires some background to fully understand.
In 2008, the California Supreme Court held that the California Constitution’s equal protection clause prohibited limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Shortly thereafter, California voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. The Respondents in Hollingsworth, two same-sex couples, filed suit against various California state and local officials in federal District Court asserting that Proposition 8 was invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. California state officials declined to defend Proposition 8, and the District Court allowed the Proponents (the parties who put Proposition 8 on the ballot) to defend it. The District Court then declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and state officials declined to appeal. The Proponents then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit ultimately held that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, and the Proponents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even though the Ninth Circuit found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, it put a “stay” in place, meaning that same-sex marriages were put on hold while the appeal to the Supreme Court was pending.Continue Reading Marriage Equality Returns to California