A federal appeals court has declared California's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional, paving the way for a likely U.S. Supreme Court showdown on the voter-approved law.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 Tuesday that a lower court judge interpreted the U.S. Constitution correctly in 2010 when he declared the ban, known as Proposition 8, to be a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
The measure, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in 2008, outlawed same-sex unions just five months after they became legal in the state.
Lawyers for Proposition 8 sponsors and for two couples who sued to overturn the ban have said they would appeal to the Supreme Court if they did not receive a favorable ruling from the 9th Circuit.
The circumstances in California are unprecedented. The state supreme court found marriage equality to be a right of the highest order under the state Constitution, and thousands of couples actually exercised that right before a discriminatory initiative took it away," Wolff said. "The federal courts would do well to focus their attention on those unique circumstances, which would support a ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional while leaving the situation in other States for another day.
University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Tobias Barrington Wolff