From City News Service
LOS ANGELES — Same-sex marriage proponents in the Southland and across the country hailed the announcement last week that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether gay and lesbian couples have the right to wed under the U.S. Constitution.
Although same-sex marriage is already legal in California, the nation’s highest court will decide whether the Constitution’s 14th Amendment requires states to permit same-sex marriages, and whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where it is already legal.
“This is a big step in our long journey toward realizing our nation’s founding promise that all of us, no matter who we are or who we love, shall be treated equally,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia — the city’s first openly gay mayor — wrote on his Twitter page, “America is about to put a ring on it.”
Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, also took to Twitter to hail the announcement as “welcome news,” adding, “It is time for #marriageequality.”
The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena said the court’s announcement is good news not just for same-sex couples, “but for anyone who believes that liberty and justice for all really means it.”
“This is a big step in our long journey toward realizing our nation’s founding promise that all of us … shall be treated equally.”
— Mayor Eric Garcetti
“It is long past time to recognize that equal protection is not equal protection unless it protects all Americans equally,” Russell said. “As an American citizen I believe in those core values we pledge to every time we pledge allegiance to our flag — liberty and justice for all. And as a priest and pastor, I believe in the biblical value that ‘the truth will set us free.’”
The cases being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court involve four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — where same-sex marriages are banned. Those states are among the 14 remaining in the country that do not allow same-sex unions.
The court is expected to hear arguments in April, with a ruling likely in June.
In March 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.
Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 but also ruled that the unions of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 prior to its passage would remain valid.
Same-sex marriage supporters took their case to federal court, and U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled in August 2010 that Proposition 8 “both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Backers of Proposition 8 — ProtectMarriage.com — appealed to the 9th Circuit, because then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to do so. The appellate court heard arguments in 2011 but put a decision on hold while it awaited a state Supreme Court ruling on the ability of Proposition 8 backers to press the case forward despite the state’s refusal to appeal.
The state Supreme Court decided that Proposition 8 supporters had legal standing, so the 9th Circuit moved ahead with its consideration of the case, hearing more arguments on a motion by Proposition 8 backers asking that Walker’s ruling be thrown out because the judge was in a long-term same-sex relationship that he had not disclosed.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that the proposition’s primary impact was to “lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”
“It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships,” according to the court’s decision.
That ruling led to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2013 that Proposition 8 backers lacked legal standing to challenge the 9th Circuit’s ruling, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California.