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Friday, February 10, 2012
The Proposition 8 ruling: How did we get here?
Advocates working to restore the rights of same-sex couples to marry in California won an important victory this week when a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit found that Proposition 8, an amendment to California's constitution that banned gay marriages, violates the U.S. Constitution.
Like many civil rights battles, the path to this victory has been a long one, and we thought it might be helpful to share this brief timeline of the legal battle over Proposition 8:
March 7, 2000 – California voters approved Proposition 22, which amended state law to bar the recognition of same-sex marriages.
February 12, 2004 – San Francisco authorizes the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, issuing 3,955 marriage licenses.
August 12, 2004 – The California Supreme Court rules that San Francisco exceeded its authority by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and declares the 3,955 marriage licenses null and void. San Francisco responds to this ruling by challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 22 in the California state court system.
May 15, 2008 – The California Supreme Court found that Proposition 22 violated the California constitution. Opponents of marriage equality had already begun working on a proposed amendment to the California constitution, carving out an explicit constitutional exception for these laws.
June 2, 2008 – Proposition 8 qualified for the ballot.
June 17, 2008 – The State of California begins issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
November 4, 2008 – Prop 8 passed by popular vote, with 52% of Californians voting to amend the state constitution, and therefore invalidated the California Supreme Court’s finding that laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.
November 5, 2008 - Advocates challenged Proposition 8 in state court, claiming that the ballot initiative process violated the state constitutional procedures for enacting amendments to the state constitution. This legal challenge was not successful.
March 5, 2009 – Arguments were made in the California Supreme Court challenging the validity of Proposition 8.
May 23, 2009 – Same-sex couples in California challenged Proposition 8 in federal district court as violating the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
May 26, 2009 – After hearing arguments in March, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 8 validly amended the state's constitution, and was therefore a lawful and valid action.
January 11, 2010 – Challenge to Proposition 8 heard in federal court in the Northern District of California.
August 4, 2010 – Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California ruled that Proposition 8 violated provisions of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Proponents of Proposition 8 swiftly appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
November 17, 2011 – The California Supreme Court responded to the Ninth Circuit's request for advice on whether the Proposition 8’s backers should be allowed to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit (even though state officials would not challenge Walker’s ruling), concluding the state should not bar the case from being appealed.
February 7, 2012 – The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court ruling, declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment by stripping away a right once granted to all people in California—the right to marry—from a particular group.